The “raw water” movement is gaining momentum in Silicon Valley. A large number of people have become “water conscious” and have a new obsession with raw water or unfiltered water collected from the Earth and packaged without sterilization. However, raw water could pose some pretty serious health risks by spreading bacteria and diseases including cholera, E. coli, Hepatitis A, and Giardia.
According to the New York Times, there has been a high demand for unfiltered water. Insiders within the tech-industry have taken a liking for water that hasn’t been treated to prevent the spread of bacteria or other harmful contaminants.
Unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water can contain animal feces and spread Giardia, according to the Business Insider. The symptoms of giardia include vomiting and diarrhea and have been responsible for nearly 4,600 hospitalizations every year.
In 2017, the spread of Hepatitis A resulted in 20 deaths in a California. Hepatitis A can be spread through untreated water. Other diseases which can be transmitted in raw water include E. coli and cholera.
Rainbow Grocery is located in San Francisco, and the Bay area is usually out of stock of raw water. This store’s raw water can cost up to $36.99 each and $14.99 per refill. This raw water is bottled and marketed by a small company called Live Water.
Kevin Freeman is a shift manager at the store and described the flavor of the water to be a “vaguely mild sweetness,” and a “nice smooth mouth feel” that is not overwhelming.
“Bottled water’s controversial. We’ve curtailed our water selection. But this is totally outside that whole realm.”
There have been several startups that have developed and are dedicated to producing untreated water. Doug Evans, the co-founder of Juicero, has already gathered gallons of untreated water from natural springs to bring to the Burning Man festival this year.
Vince Hill, of the Waterborne Disease Prevention sector at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said people should know where their water comes from, what’s in it, and if it’s safe to drink.
“We’re glad people are so interested in water quality and the value they’re placing in safe water… But I think it’s also important for people to know where their water comes from, what’s in it, how it’s delivered and whether it’s safe to drink.”
Evans said that fans of raw water are rather “extreme about health.” However, Marler, a food safety advocate and attorney, said that anything that can make you sick could be found in water.
“Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water.”
Many people have failed to realize how dangerous raw water can be.
“The diseases that killed our great-grandparents were completely forgotten about.”
Thanks to advancements in technology and strict safety standards, most people living in the United States do not personally know anyone who has died of cholera or Hepatitis A. Therefore, understanding the risks involved in consuming untreated water becomes more difficult.
“It’s fine till some 10-year-old girl dies a horrible death from cholera in Montecito, California.”
Marler said the raw water trend could be compared to health-conscious people’s obsession with raw milk to opposing vaccinations. According to Marler, because there is a lack of scientific evidence to prove otherwise, they are easily convinced that they are correct.
The repercussions of these actions are not seen because the health-conscious community is not living a life without scientific advances.
“You can’t stop consenting adults from being stupid… But, we should at least try.”
Regardless, startups are still being funded by investors. Zero Mass Water is an Arizona company that installs systems that will allow people to collect water directly from the atmosphere around their homes. The companies began taking orders en masse last November and have raised $24 million in venture capital.
Oregon’s Live Water and Tourmaline Spring in Maine have emerged in the last few years to deliver untreated water on demand.
Three years ago, Liquid Eden opened in San Diego and offered a variety of options of water, including fluoride-free, chlorine-free, and “mineral electrolyte alkaline” drinking water that goes for $2.50 a gallon. The owner of the shop sells about 900 gallons of water a day and says that sales have doubled each year as the “water conscious movement” gains momentum.
Francl, who is also a scholar at the Vatican Observatory, said that the notion of raw water is crazy because thousands are killed from drinking unsanitary water each year.
“The lack of clean water kills hundreds of thousands of children a year… So this notion of raw water is crazy.”
According to the CDC, water treatment is intended to remove harmful bacteria, such as E.coli, Giardia, and Salmonella.
“Clean water has made such a difference in people’s life expediencies in the United States and other industrialized countries, so I can’t imagine why you would want to drink water that wasn’t and thereby endanger your health.”
Changes such as these are largely responsible for improvements in human life expectancy, which had increased by 30 years from 1900 to 1970.