The new year is bubbling with numerous reports about “raw water.” Enthusiasts are flocking to outlets — in Oregon, Maine, San Diego, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley — for unfiltered, untreated, and unsterilized H2O from springs. They’re paying dearly, for example $36.99 for a 2.5-gallon glass orb of “off the grid” Live Water from a West Coast vendor.
Devotees insist “raw water” tastes better. They contend it’s healthier when free of chemicals, like purifying chlorine and tooth- and bone-protecting fluoride, and replete with “probiotics,” bacteria and microscopic life such as algae that they claim are beneficial.
Such claims fly in the face of at least a century of public health experience and progress, a period in which science-based hygiene has helped to rid the nation of epidemics due to water-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and hepatitis A no longer flourish in water supplies, killing thousands annually as these banes once did. It goes without a thought for most Americans that they can turn the spigot at home or the office, drink freely and deeply and not end up getting deathly ill — risks that may be posed by “raw” water.