What’s the Deal with “Raw” Water?

Also, referred to as unprocessed, live, and off-the-grid water, raw water has been making headlines around the country. I can remember as a child when water was just water, and turning on the tap and filling a glass was as natural and safe as not wearing seatbelts once was—things have changed! Not only has awareness improved, our world and environment continue to grow increasingly complicated with ever rising rates of pollutants, chemicals, and pesticides in our food and water. While, I’m a huge fan of eating a natural diet full of organic and toxin-free foods that are locally and humanly sourced, I’m a firm believer in doing the research before jumping on any bandwagon, no matter how appealing it might sound. And this includes drinking the best water available.

So, let’s take a closer look:

Just what is raw water? It sounds great. Fresh from a bubbling spring and/or pulled directly from the air, unprocessed water companies’ websites tell fairytale like stories of pure and superior drinking water. Basically, raw water is water that has been untouched by purification or filtration processes that are approved and monitored by state and federal guidelines. The new live water companies make compelling and appealing sounding arguments, until you stop and think about the herd of deer that may have just relieved themselves near one of these springs, or pause and consider the pervasive toxins that contaminate the atmosphere. These waters are side-stepping the processes that bottled water and municipal water follow to ensure safety for dinking—and that leaves you too exposed to possible contaminants and toxins that can make you seriously ill. But there are probiotics in raw water. This may be true, but there are safer ways to get them. Eat plain Greek yogurt or kefir, or drink kombucha, sip bone broth, eat fermented breads, or how about taking a good probiotic supplement.

What are your other water choices?
The majority of us live in societies where we have a variety of choices when it comes to drinking water. The quality of water is going to be one of the next big issues in health because there is so much affecting the water we drink including pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, pollutants, and more that show a correlation to higher rates of cancer, disease, and other health issues.

Here are the most common types of water available, and pros and cons for each.

Tap water: The quality of the water that comes out of your tap is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In most big cities, tap water must be disinfected and filtered to remove pathogens, and it is regularly tested for common viruses such as cryptosporidium and giardia (not something that bottled water is required to do, FYI). Tap water is also regularly tested for bacteria and most synthetic organic chemicals.
Pros: After paying your utilities there’s no additional cost, and it is convenient. Cons: The purity and safety of the water varies depending on the region in which you live. Older homes can have lead pipes, making lead in water a greater risk in tap than bottled (see below). If you live in a rural community your risk of pesticide runoff could be higher, or if your water comes from a private well.

Bottled Water: Any water packaged in plastic and available for purchase. Bottled water is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA requires that bottled water be tested for bacteria and most synthetic organic chemicals, but it isn’t assessed as often as tap water.
Pros: It’s convenient. Bottled water is tested for lead. Cons: Plastic water bottles are not sustainable, they use large amounts of fossil fuels, and they aren’t biodegradable in any significant way—most will be around for thousands of years. Plus, as much as a quarter of bottled water may just be tap water in a “to go” container (the federal government doesn’t require bottled water to be safer than tap). You have to do your research to figure out what filtration method—if any—was used. Finally, even if the plastic is BPA free, it can contain other harmful chemicals (especially if exposed to heat—like the semi truck it sat on to get to the store in Atlanta heat), and the water inside can still contain contaminants such as microbes, phthalates, even arsenic, and more. If all that isn’t enough to get your attention, bottled water is costly! You can end up spending thousands of more dollars each year on bottled water than you would using other methods.

Filtration Systems: There are so many! Do your research. My favorite is a system that uses reverse osmosis, but if that isn’t available or if the cost is prohibitive, I also like Pur filter systems. Pur systems have been shown to remove more contaminants than other comparable brands.
Pros: Can be relatively inexpensive. There are many choices. Most home systems are convenient. There are many effective choices. Cons: Can be expensive, different types of filters offer different benefits (you need to do your research) and you need to keep up with changing filters frequently.

Other types of water you can buy:
Spring While raw waters are from springs and are completely untreated, the spring waters you see in stores are from an underground source, and they may or may not have undergone treatment or purification. The EWG has said that the source of a lot of bottled spring water is a mystery, and studies have shown that contaminants have been found in spring water such as coliform, arsenic and phthalates.

Distilled: A type of purified water that has gone through a rigorous filtration process to strip out contaminants and natural minerals. This is water that is best for use in small appliances—think iron, steam iron, diffusers because it won’t build up minerals that can clog the works. It’s not necessarily the best for your drinking water, since it is missing minerals. However, it’s good to incorporate distilled water when doing a detox or every now and then to help draw out toxins.

Drinking Water: This is water that comes from a municipal source and has been deemed safe for human consumption. It may or may not have added fluoride.

Purified: There are different purification processes used remove chemicals and toxins including carbon filtration, deionization, and reverse osmosis. Each process works to remove harmful components and each takes out some beneficial minerals. It’s important to know what “purified” means on the label to a company.

What about fluoride in your water? Some say they choose to drink raw water to avoid fluoride, which is commonly added to both drinking water and the water that comes out of your home taps. While fluoride may have a place in treating tooth decay, it may be overboard to put it in all drinking water, the word is still out and the debate continues on this topic. If you want fluoride-free water, raw water is still not the safest choice. Instead, choose a delivery service that offers this option or a filtration system to help.

The Bottom Line: Skip the raw water, and go for a well proven water filtration system or delivery service at home. Take your own water with you in reusable bottles wherever you go.