Water filtration is one of the greatest and most world-changing technologies in all of human history. Personally, I really enjoy not having cholera. But now companies are saying water filtration is actually bad for people's health, and they're selling untreated, unfiltered, "raw" water for up to $6 a gallon.
According to the New York Times, "raw water" is unfiltered, unsterilized, untreated spring water, which companies are bottling and selling for a ton of money. Oregon-based Live Water, for example, sells a 2.5-gallon jug of "raw water" for $36.99.
Mukhande Singh, the founder of Live Water, told the Times that his product is better than tap water, bottled water, or even reverse-osmosis-purified water, because his water contains unspecified "probiotics," and also because the government can't use it to control people's minds.
"Tap water? You're drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them," Singh said. "Chloramine, and on top of that they're putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it's a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health."
Calling fluoride a mind-control drug is pretty high up there on the list of "things a conspiracy theorist would say," but a lot of people are apparently getting into the "water consciousness movement" and seeking out increasingly "natural" sources of drinking water.
One of the biggest proponents of "raw water" right now is Doug Evans, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur famed for creating Juicero — a $700 machine that squeezed organic cold-pressed juice out of bags and garnered millions in venture capital funding before going spectacularly out of business when people realized they could just squeeze the bags with their hands. After that experience, he decided to regroup with a 10-day "cleanse" drinking nothing but raw water, and now he's obsessed with it.
"I haven't tasted tap water in a long time," he told the Times. He even said he's trespassed on private property in the dead of night in San Francisco to collect water from a spring with his own two hands.
Bottled and tap water are both filtered, treated, and regulated for safety. There are also ways to filter water to purify it even more, but Singh says they don't count, because then the water is "dead." His goal isn't purity, it's "realness." He thinks water should be "alive," and as evidence of the vitality of his water, he says it should be consumed "within one lunar cycle of delivery," because otherwise it will turn green. He thinks that's a feature, not a bug.
"If it sits around too long, it'll turn green," he told the Times. "People don't even realize that because all their water's dead, so they never see it turn green."
That's enough to make water safety experts turn green with anxiety. Natural water sources could harbor any number of natural pathogens and environmental contaminants. Tens of thousands of people around the world die every year of amoebic dysentery as a result of not having access to water sanitation, and now people who do have access to safe water are pooh-poohing it in favor of drinking from streams.
"Without water treatment, there's acute and then chronic risks," said the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Donald Hensrud, who cited E. coli bacteria, viruses, parasites, Legionella, Giardia, and carcinogenic compounds as just some of the things that could be present in untreated water. "There's evidence all over the world of this, and the reason we don't have those conditions is because of our very efficient water treatment."
The "raw water" trend is very expensive and potentially dangerous, and there's no evidence that it's in any way more healthful than any other kind of water. If you want to improve the taste or purity of your water, try a water filter instead.