Newest Health Craze: “Raw Water” — Should You be Drinking It for Your Health?

When you first heard about the “raw water” craze, perhaps you had a vision of Heidi drinking out of a pure Alpine stream: Cool, crystal clear, refreshing and pure as the driven snow.

Unfortunately, the truth is, “raw water” is closer to what your dog might drink out of a dirty puddle–and probably more dangerous than what he drinks out of your toilet.

And about those apparently pristine streams: They may be far from pristine. You simply can’t tell by looking. Campers and hikers have known this for years.

Long before the current craze, the CDC had this to say: “While the water flowing in the streams and rivers of the backcountry may look pure, it can still be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other contaminants.”

So, then — should you be drinking raw water for your health?

The answer is an unequivocal no.

What is Raw Water?

Raw water is natural water that has not been treated– rain water, for example, or melted snow. It’s the water you find in lakes and other bodies of water. But really, it doesn’t matter if it’s that puddle your dog likes to lap or a beautiful natural lake or even the spring runoff from a mountain. Raw water is generally contaminated. Its fine for watering your tomatoes, but not for drinking.

Raw water aficionados have been around, well, as long as there’s been water. So have the illnesses that you can pick up from drinking raw water. They include cholera, legionella (Legionnaire’s disease), salmonella and that popular virus from cruise ships, norovirus.

You could just end up with a nasty case of diarrhea, but you could also end up dead.

Citing the CDC, Newsweek reports that over a 12-month period, at least 130 people became ill after drinking spring or stream water at a camp. And consider this: Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related disease, according to The Water Project.


The FDA requires that bottled-water facilities “have the source water inspected and the water sampled, analyzed, and found to be of safe and sanitary quality” according to state and local laws. Reports show that a Maine company sells an “untreated” water under the brand “Tourmaline Spring.” But it’s been tested.

And that’s the key word: Tested. The water in question has been proven safe. You have no way of knowing what’s in that stream by your house or campsite.

Consider the Source

Maybe it’s not just water that needs to be tested, but people’s gullibility. Over the last few months, raw water gained “fad” status thanks to a pricey Silicon Valley startup.

And no, it’s not just people getting back to nature and sipping from steams.

The rest of the country learned about it through a New York Times-published article in December, reporting that Americans–well, Californians–well, Silicon Valley-ians were switching to unfiltered, untreated water from purportedly natural sources. They weren’t going to the mountain streams to gather it. They were spending $36.99 for a 2.5-gallon jug. Of water. Go ahead: Do the math. Then do the research.

Keep in mind, among the people purported to be behind this most recent iteration of the craze appears is the founder of the now-defunct Juicero–a pricey juicer that squeezed juice out of bags of fruit and vegetables.

Right Question, Wrong Answer

Now, let’s be honest. We all know there are problems with our current water system. A Natural Resources Defense Council report found more than 80,000 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015.

The U.S. infrastructure is deteriorating; aging water systems are increasingly spreading contaminants like lead. Flint is the example we’ve all heard about, but it’s not the only one.

And many people have serious concerns about the effects of fluoridation and other aspects of tap water. Concerns about chlorination and fluoridation make raw water attractive. But that’s rather like replacing your high-sugar soda with grain alcohol to avoid the sugar.

If you are wary of your municipal water supply you can buy purified water in bulk at your local health food store–or even your regular grocer. For a whole lot less than $15.00 per gallon.

A Snarky Warning

Food safety experts, scientists, physicians and others have been trying to get the word out. They haven’t always been kind about it. “You can’t stop consenting adults from being stupid,” food-safety expert Bill Marler told Business Insider. “But, we should at least try.”

~ Health Scams Exposed