It’s called water consciousness – a movement of people who drink unfiltered, unsterilised spring water and even rain water.
Why? Well, for the supposed health benefits. Devotees of bottled ‘raw’ water claim it has salubrious benefits that are lacking from fluoridated tap water and regular bottled water.
Plus, they say, it’s the H20 version of farm to fork. Call it spring to glass.
Such is the growing popularity of the raw wet stuff in the US that Oregon startup Live Water is able to charge a whopping $36.99 (£26.70) for a 2.5-gallon glass bottle – and then $14.99 per refill.
While grocery stores love the idea of 500% profit margin, a growing number of critics are springing up appalled at the hipsters, splurging cash on what they see as a barefaced con. Aren’t people donating millions of dollars to projects all around the world to make sure people aren’t drinking raw water? said one comment on Reddit
The brand is particularly popular with hipsters in San Francisco, where a grocer describes it as having “vaguely mild sweetness” and “a nice smooth mouthfeel”, according to a New York Times report earlier this year.
Devotees of raw water insist it fills them with health-giving bacteria and minerals not found in treated water, while Live Water is confident its product “has all the healthy minerals and probiotics fully unobstructed” and that “no one has ever gotten sick” from drinking it, not even expectant mums.
However, health and hygiene experts have warned untreated water may contain all sorts of nasty bacteria and parasites that can cause illness – especially if it isn’t protected from contamination by bird droppings or cattle dung. That can mean risk of food poisoning, dysentery and infectious diseases such as cholera. And then there’s the arsenic and radon in some types of rocks found in water sources.
Nevertheless, the de facto leader of the water consciousness crusade, Live Water founder Mukhande Singh (formerly Christopher Sanborn), is adamant raw water is the real thing – not the “dead” liquid that comes from our taps, he told the NYT.
“Tap water? You’re drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them,” he said. “Chloramine, and on top of that they’re putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it’s a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health.” (There is no scientific evidence that fluoride is a mind-control drug, but plenty to show that it aids dental health.)
Another prominent proponent of raw water is Doug Evans, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. After his juicing company, Juicero, collapsed last September, he went on a 10-day cleanse, drinking nothing but Live Water. “I haven’t tasted tap water in a long time,” he said.
Before he could order raw water on demand, Mr. Evans went “spring hunting” with friends. This has become more challenging lately: The closest spring around San Francisco has recently been cut off by landslides, so reaching it means crossing private property, which he does under cover of night.
“You have to be agile and tactile, and be available to experiment,” he said. “Literally, you have to carry bottles of water through the dark.”