Ensuring access to sustainable resources is one of the biggest challenges facing our world today – so perhaps it’s not surprising that in a bid to go off grid, we’re seeking alternatives to bottled and tap water.
Enter the so-called “water-conscious movement”. Devotees claim that raw or “live” water taken directly from its natural source has a whole host of health benefits, thanks to the presence of mineral compounds and probiotics.
But what about harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses, and the risk of infection?
According to a New York Times investigation published last week, unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized water is currently being bottled and marketed in San Francisco for $36.99 per 2.5 gallons, and for $14.99 per refill, by a small Oregon-based start-up named Live Water. It’s said to be hugely popular according to a shopkeeper quoted in the piece – in part thanks to its “vaguely mild sweetness” and “nice smooth mouth feel, nothing that overwhelms.”
At this point, you’d be forgiven for calling to mind the Only Fools and Horses episode in which Del Boy decides to bottle tap water, and sell it under the name “Peckham Springs”. So, does raw water really boast health benefits tempting enough to get us drinking?
“We’ve spent generations of science and effort to try and protect people from drinking raw water. It seems extraordinary that people want to go back to medieval times, when millions of people died from infections that were carried by it,” says Val Curtis, Professor of Hygiene and Director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Live Water claims that the fresh water it sells contains minerals and probiotics that are destroyed by sterilisation in other filtered and bottled spring waters. “Living spring water is the key to unlocking a perfect micro-biome balance,” it states. “Anxiety, weight gain, fatigue, and countless other ailments are linked to an imbalance of proper gut bacteria.”
The water from Live Water is said to be naturally alkaline, abundant in sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, and high in natural silica – which Live Water states can keep skin hydrated and reduce wrinkles, keep hair and nails healthy, and even increase joint strength and flexibility.
To which Curtis would say: “We can believe in fairies too if we like. We could tell people to go out and lick a rock if we need more silica, or sell pet rocks as cures for diseases. It’s in the same realm as crystals, this belief in the properties of the natural environment to make you healthy.”