It seems that every year, a new water-related health craze emerges and spreads as quickly as wildfire. First it was lemon water, then came the coconut water diet craze, but this year’s trend may be the most controversial of them all: The raw water trend.
Raw water is water that is sourced from a spring and sold “as is” without any prior treatment or filtration. It’s marketed as being “loaded with minerals, naturally occurring probiotics, and electrolytes”. It’s usually sold in glass containers called orbs that vary in size from 2.5-gallon orbs to 5-gallon orbs.
Health experts, however, warn against this trend arguing that drinking untreated water can put your health at risk.
So, should you forgo filtered tap water in exchange for raw water?
5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Drink Raw Spring Water
It’s not surprising that this new water trend originated in the United States. Amidst the Flint, Michigan water crisis, where cost-cutting measures to the city’s drinking water system resulted in highly dangerous levels of toxins and heavy metals in municipal water supplies, the public’s trust in tap water has plummeted to an all-time low.
In this context of questionable infrastructure and contamination issues, it’s somewhat understandable that many people feed into the untreated water narrative, which promises water in its purest form “as nature intended”, untainted by chemicals and artificial substances.
Health experts, however, worry that even though raw spring water is not exposed to the elements of a faulty water system, it’s exposed to other potentially harmful elements like viruses, pathogenic bacteria, and other environmental pollutants and toxins that can make you sick.
Here’s 5 reasons why you should not drink untreated and unfiltered water:
- In the absence of testing, there’s no way of telling what’s lurking in untreated water
Community tap water is regulated and tested against hundreds of contaminants including artificially added chemicals to ensure that their levels are within the permitted guidelines.
Raw spring water marketers make a selling point out of raw water being unfiltered and untreated, but water that is not tested for any contaminants can contain anything from industrial pollutants to animal faeces, neither of which are safe for your health.
- Drinking untreated water can lead to disease outbreaks like cholera or typhoid
Sanitation experts warn that by drinking untreated water from unknown sources some water-borne diseases that have been almost completely eradicated could be making a comeback. Dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever could once again cause disease outbreaks.
- Drinking raw water is not the best substitute for bottled water
Raw spring water proponents are marketing it as a substitute for bottled water. They argue that by not bottling untreated water, they are not contributing to plastic pollution created by the bottled water industry. While this is true, unfiltered spring water is not the best substitute for bottled water, but filtered tap water may very well be. Filtered tap water is cheaper, safer, healthier, and much more convenient than raw water.
- Untreated water is sold at a much higher price than filtered water
In the US, raw water is sold for as much as $36.99 per 2.5-gallon orbs, but some brands sell for even more. Something that’s unregulated, untreated, and potentially dangerous, hardly warrants a higher price tag than water that’s cleaner and safer.
- Water is not an exclusive source of minerals in your diet
Another selling point of untreated spring water is its higher mineral content. While it may very well be true that untreated water can contain more minerals that highly processed and filtered water, water is not and should not be the only source of minerals in your diet.
Most of our daily mineral intake is taken care of by the fruits, vegetables and food we eat. Besides, with few exceptions like reverse osmosis filters, most water filters don’t remove healthy minerals from water.
More Hydrating than Regular Water?
Drinkers of untreated spring water claim that raw water is more hydrating than regular water, and they actually need to drink less of it to be hydrated. It’s not excluded that some raw water brands may have a better taste or “mouth feel” than tap water, but raw water is not more hydrating than regular mineral water or filtered water.
Another claim made by water brands selling untreated water it that this water contains healthy probiotics that help digestion and restore healthy gut microbiome. Scientists argue that the only things you’ll get from raw water are bacteria, faecal-borne protozoa, hepatitis, giardia, and meningitis, but not probiotics.
If you’re worried about your gut flora, you can get healthy probiotics from yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or even probiotic supplements.
When Can You Drink Raw Water?
Ideally, you should always avoid drinking raw water, but in emergencies, when struggling with severe dehydration or possible loss of consciousness, drinking untreated water may be your only option. Even so, if possible, you should filter it first either with a water filter bottle, a gravity filter, or in the absence of these, by boiling it, or by making a DIY water filter.
If you’re hell bent on consuming raw water, make sure it comes from a source that is at least regularly tested for contaminants and pathogens. If you own a gravity water filter, make sure to filter untreated water before consumption.
Under no circumstances should you give untreated water to infants, children, or people with a compromised immune system.
Raw Water is Not the Solution, Clean Water Is
In many regions across the globe, people would give anything to have access to clean water at a turn of the tap. The call for returning to nature and drinking untreated water is a dangerous proposition made by raw spring water purveyors that undermines century-long efforts to eradicate disease outbreaks caused by the very practice of drinking untreated, unprocessed and unfiltered water.