For a few years now several companies have been marketing “raw water” that has been bottled directly from natural sources such as springs and small water bodies without filtration and treatment.
The term “raw water” was trademarked in 2012 by Bryan Pullen and Seth Pruzansky who were marketing these bottles of water since 2009 as “Tourmaline Springs” from springs in Maine and selling them far and wide to a large customer base looking for natural water. Raw water was purported to have health benefits owing to its no-treatment status and is said to be full of bacteria and minerals. These have been sold at premium prices to food and diet fanatics.
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Health experts however remain unconvinced about the safety and benefits of these bottles of “raw water”. They warn about the pathogens that could lead to diarrhea among the consumers that have not been removed from these bottles of water.
Raw water has come under the public scanner too after an article doubting its claims and safety appeared in the media. Pullen and Pruzansky assured that they had the Maine’s oversight body certify the purity and drinkability of the water from the springs. The backlash due to the rising prices of the “raw water” due to its heavy demand was something beyond their control they said. In San Francisco and Los Angeles for example the water sells for $38.49 for 2.5 gallons in a glass jug. Mukhande Singh is the founder of “live water” that is being sold from Oregon’s Opal Springs and has similar views on the matter. Water from Opal Springs has also been certified by the local authorizes to be safe to drink. Pruzansky added that this spring water is not just any spring in the wood but comes from underground aquifers that have hundreds of years of history and has been tested rigorously for contaminants.
David Sedlak, co-director of the University of California, Berkeley’s Water Center agrees with the origin theory but remains worried about the possibility of contamination during the transit of the water from the makers to the consumers. He added that the bacteria in the water were not proven to be of any health benefit and it was more of a placebo effect for the consumers. He concluded that people could donate the excess money that they were paying for these trendy gallons of water for the betterment of water infrastructure so that water supply could be improved and made safer for people.
A statement on the US Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) water-borne diseases website states, “The United States has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world. Sources of drinking water are subject to contamination and require appropriate treatment to remove disease-causing contaminants. The presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders.” “While the water flowing in the streams and rivers of the back-country may look pure, it can still be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other contaminants,” it states. It adds that the vulnerable populations – children, pregnant and elderly are at greater risk of “illnesses related to water contamination” and this warrants care. CDC recommends boiling, filtering or disinfecting water that comes from natural sources such as rivers and streams.