If you have been keeping tabs on the latest health headlines, you may have seen a blurb or two about something called “Raw Water”.
On first glance, it may seem like nothing more than just another version of well, water --like water sold in glass tubes, or in boxes (both totally exist by the way).
The thing about this new fad, which claims to be focused on an “enhanced” version of the water that flows from our faucets --is that this water is left uncleaned by humans.
That means that the water is, quite literally raw.
Think of it as if a hiker discovers a small pond in the forest, filled their jug with the found water ...and just started drinking.
While this kind of water may sound interesting, know that drinking unclean and unprocessed water comes with a long list of health risks and hazards.
Today we will talk about drinking water, why it’s important to have it cleaned properly, and why the raw water craze is a fad you should definitely skip.
Water is water… right?
Although water may look the same pretty much everywhere we go --it can still vary.
Water is comprised of, as we all learned in junior high science class, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. This meeting of elements creates a bond that clings together and is recognizable to us as water, which rearranges in the shape of a solid, liquid or as a vapor. Water will always be made up of this elemental bond… but it’s what gets caught and mixed up with it that complicates things.
Now that that basic science lesson is over, let’s get into what you should be mindful of the next time you tip back a glass of water and enjoy.
What is "raw" water?
The chemical makeup of water does not change, but it’s what gets caught up in the created liquid, solid or vapor that raises red flags.
In the case of raw water, there is a long list of what can potentially be mixed in with the water.
There is a reason that every park ranger you meet while out in the woods will say that you should never drink found water as is. They say that if you have to drink found water (be it from a lake, pond, stream, puddle of rainwater…), you should treat it first. It’s for your own safety.
The usual method is to lower your empty water bottle into the water and fill it, and either boil it (if you can) or drop a few iodine or chlorine tablets inside.
This is done to deactivate the dangerous bacteria and microbes that can potentially make you very sick of things like chollera, a gut wrecking illness.
What raw water proposes that you do, is drink that same water that should be treated and cleaned, but drink it as is.
The belief lies in the hope that those very same microbes are actually beneficial and offer a form of probiotic.
Are there natural probiotics in raw water?
Are there traces of probiotics in the water? Reluctantly... the answer is yes, there are.
However, the probiotics found in this water are not all beneficial to your human body.
More than that, the strains of positive bacteria that are in the water are in such low levels that you are better off retrieving those same probiotics by eating yogurt, kimchi or some other fermented food.
At least that will provide a higher level of safety than drinking raw water, which has a high range of other microbes besides probiotics that can potentially get you very sick.
So in short --yes there are some probiotics in the raw water, but they are in low amounts, and are surrounded by too many other potentially dangerous microbes.
Raw water, what’s really inside
Like what was mentioned earlier, it is what gets mixed in with the water that creates the danger.
When water is raw and untreated, it becomes and remains a staging ground for harmful bacteria, germs, and a myriad of other toxic infestations.
Water that is left untreated is potentially home to decayed animal carcasses, chemicals that have gotten into the water through acid rain… and even animal feces that has come into contact with the water.
Does regular tap water have chemicals added to it after it is treated? Yes, it does (fluoride as an additive to allegedly strengthen teeth). Compared to raw water, regular treated tap water is much safer to drink (safest in the world, according to the CDC), as the risk of getting sick by a waterborne bacterial infection is far lower.
Treated water is safest for your body and microflora. If you are looking to improve the quality of your water and reduce the artificial additives in your tap water, consider getting a water filter that pulls out possible minerals and chemicals.
When it comes to drinking water --keep it treated. It’s far safer.
"Camping, Hiking, Travel | Drinking Water”. Center for Disease Control. 2016.
Ghoochani, Mahboobeh et al. “Study on the TOC Concentration in Raw Water and HAAs in Tehran’s Water Treatment Plant Outlet.” Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering 11 (2013): 28. PMC. Web. 9 Jan. 2018.
“Waterborne Illnesses” Center for Disease Control.
Vogel, J., Majewski, M., Capel, P.. “Pesticides in Rain in Four Agricultural Watersheds in the United States” US Geological Survey. 2008.
Main, Douglas. “Facts about Fluoridation”. Live Science. 2015.
“History of Drinking Water Treatment” Center for Disease Control. 2012.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.