Why you should beware the raw water trend

New year, new you, new wacky "health" trend to try out?

January 11, 2018, 5:13 PM

— -- First, it was juicing. Then it was souping. In 2018, it's raw water.

Selling for as much as $15 a gallon, raw water is all the rage in this basic life necessity. Like black water and boxed water before it, some people are jumping on the trend.

But unlike the other so-called health trends that came before it, raw water from an unknown source has many potential health hazards, Dr. Sarang Koushik, a resident in ABC News' medical unit, said.

"Raw water is essentially untreated or unfiltered water, containing natural minerals,” Koushik said. “This water is absent of the additive fluoride. Raw water can be found in springs, rivers or wells.

“Unfortunately, this water could contain dangerous pesticides, bacteria, and animal waste products."

Translation: If it hasn’t been tested, it may have contaminants that can make you very sick.

"Raw water may contain bacteria and parasites such as E. Coli, giardia, or cholera,” Koushik added. “The health effects can range from diarrhea and dehydration to organ failure.”

But what about raw water sold in stores? People are buying it in droves. The New York Times reported that Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco is regularly sold out.

Live Water, the company that provides the raw water to places like Rainbow Grocery, also delivers in a small area of Northern California, the company says. In response to questions about its bottled water, Live Water posted this statement on its website:

“Opal spring where we source our water is from an ancient aquifer that we have extensively tested and has shown no harmful contamination what so ever. Water is collected from the covered spring head, so there is no chance for surface bacterias to enter the water. Our bottling facility is a sterile environment in which we triple rinse and wash our glass jugs. We also test each batch for harmful bacteria, and no one has ever gotten sick from drinking the water we bottle. The town of Madras Oregon trusts the water so much that they have been drinking unprocessed Opal Spring Water from the tap for over half a century.”

But for those outside the delivery area, the company also offers to sell customers a jug to "collect living water yourself."

"Imagine going to collect your water and receiving the earths [sic] wisdom in any space that you travel through," the Live Water website reads.

But going to untested and untreated water sources is potentially dangerous, Koushik said, because raw water does not undergo surveillance and testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Koushik said, "The role of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect and purify the public water supply. Per CDC [Centers for Disease Control] data in 2013-2014, there were 124 hospitalizations and 13 deaths related to water contamination. Compare this to the developing world where clean water access is sparse and outbreaks of waterborne illnesses occur in the millions."

And while enthusiasts and purveyors of the trend claim health benefits ranging from increased brain function to increased beauty, Koushik said, there is "currently no scientific evidence demonstrating any benefit from raw water consumption."

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