Drinking raw water is a terrible idea

A recent report highlights a concerning new trend: drinking "raw water," which means water that hasn't been treated in any way. The motivation behind this trend seems to be a misguided attempt to avoid harmful elements that may be found in tap water while gaining beneficial elements believed to exist only in untreated spring water. The reality, though, is one that could involve serious illnesses uncommon in modern America.

According to a recent report in The New York Times, "raw water" has become something of a trend in some places primarily on the American West Coast, where buyers are seeking out — and drinking — water bottled directly from the Earth, no filtering, no boiling, no chemicals. This spring water is sold at a hefty cost of $34.99 per 2.5 gallons / 9.5 liters as an alternative to tap water and bottled waters.

The main customer is described as one who seeks out healthy dietary options while at the same time fearing the potentially harmful elements found in treated water: trace pharmaceuticals, heavy metals from old water pipes, residual chemicals from large-scale water treatment, and more. Others consume untreated spring water in an effort to avoid added fluoride.

"Raw" water, though, is hardly without its risks, and in fact untreated water remains a serious issue for many places in the world. Drinking water that has been pulled straight from the Earth brings many potential illnesses, not the least of which are typhoid and cholera. While no one wants to find traces of pharmaceuticals in their drinking water, the prospect of contracting an intestinal protozoa — and the resulting life-threatening illness — is far more frightening.

None of this is to say that tap water in the US is perfect. Cases like the travesty in Flint, Michigan, are very real, and they bring with them very real health consequences. Raw water trends are arising in some of American's wealthiest regions, however, including San Francisco's Mission District, where safe, inexpensive alternatives to the already-safe tap water are easily afforded. The most obvious solution is a relatively inexpensive water filter that attaches to a faucet, eliminating whatever concerning trace elements may exist in the water, though studies have raised question over whether it is even necessary to filter tap water.

Filtered water can't offer one of the supposed benefits believed to be derived from "raw" water, however — beneficial microbes that are supposedly found in untreated spring water. While that belief isn't scientifically supported, other things are — namely that untreated water can itself contain all sorts of harmful elements, and not just intestinal parasites and bacteria. Raw water may contain carcinogenic elements that have made their way into the water source, high levels of arsenic, and more.

SOURCE: New York Times