Trendy tech workers in San Francisco have started drinking unfiltered water as a healthy alternative to treated bottled or tap water. They’re collecting gallons of “raw water” from local streams and ponds, and a few companies have begun to cash in on the trend by selling bottles of unfiltered water. Raw water is selling for as much as $30 per gallon in some San Francisco health stores, and many locations are having a hard time keeping the bottles in stock. Refills can cost $15, and some retailers are warning that prices will increase with the next shipment.
Bill Marler, an attorney and health food advocate, warns that unfiltered water is not healthier than treated water. In fact, raw water is incredibly dangerous. He believes that the widespread availability of clean, filtered water has caused modern consumers to forget about the many diseases that are linked to untreated water. Cholera, Giardia, and many other deadly illnesses can be caused by bacteria that naturally lives in ponds, rivers, and creeks. Almost anything could contaminate a natural water source, from animal feces to decaying fish. Most of those potential contaminants are dangerous for humans to consume.
As prices continue to rise for raw water, consumers do not seem concerned about the potential hazards. A recent article in the New York Times has drawn more attention to the trend, which could cause the raw water idea to spread as more people find out about it. Marler is concerned that people will continue to drink potentially dangerous water until someone becomes seriously ill or even dies from contamination. He believes that raw water is an offshoot of other natural food trends, like drinking unpasteurized milk. There are no laws or regulations to stop people from consuming unfiltered water, however, so all the experts can do is issue warnings of the potential dangers and hope for the best.