I’m all for sustainable development. Eco-friendly houses, recycling, and renewable energy are all great things to be looking into using. Given the current anti-plastic trend, it probably isn’t surprising that people are looking for an alternative to bottled drinking water. One that doesn’t waste the tons of plastic which are needlessly created and disposed of by the bottled water industry every year.
Raw water is not the answer.
Devotees of raw water claim that water taken directly from its natural source has a whole host of health benefits that bottled and tap water lack, thanks to the presence of mineral compounds and probiotics. These things may well be present in raw water. But so will harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, unfiltered, untreated and unsterilized water is currently being bottled and marketed in San Francisco for $36.99 for 2.5 gallons. So it is certainly the case that raw water won’t help to save money!
The claims made by the companies and people fooled by this particular trend point to the fact that raw water contains minerals and probiotics that are destroyed by sterilisation and filtration in other forms of water. This is ignoring a simple fact about drinking water. We don’t drink water for any sort of nutrient value. We drink water to remain hydrated. Minerals and probiotics should be taken in as part of a balanced diet plan, through food. Water is not meant for nutrition purposes, and the dangers inherent of raw water easily outstrip any potential benefits.
There are a whole range of pathogens that can be transmitted in water. Campylobactor from bird droppings, cryptosporidium from cattle, E.coli and giardiasis, to name just a few. Depending on where the raw water comes from, it could have also washed through rocks containing things like arsenic and radon. Admittedly, that isn’t common and it is very likely the sort of thing that a reputable company would check before selling a product, but it is still a possibility.
Worse yet, untreated water has historically been the cause of deadly outbreaks of cholera and dysentery, which means that if demand for raw water climbs high enough, we could be looking at returning to the sort of infectious cycle that killed hundreds of people before we understood the root causes of these diseases.
What About Tap Water?
Tap water has been my answer to the cost – both financially and environmentally – of bottled water almost since the bottled water craze began. I have to admit that I still fail to see the point in paying £3 for a bottle of water, when I can get easily twice as much water for £0.50 from the tap.
But according to the people selling raw water, I’m a fool. According to them, tap water has lead, chlorine, fluoride, and most of the time prescription drugs in it, because it is recycled water from other people’s drains.
As I grew up in a house with a passionate water engineer for a father, I am fully aware of where and how the water in my taps is sourced, treated, and transported to me. And I am absolutely fine with each step in that process, as it means that I am 100% certain that when I drink water from my tap, it will not be contaminated with some of the truly horrific water-borne parasites and diseases that untreated water can contain.
So, please, before you go and buy any raw water, consider simply using the water from your tap. I can guarantee that it will be cheaper, and it will probably also be a lot healthier.