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The Healthiest Water Ever? Maybe Not

Sammy Caiola

Ultra-distilled water is available at Alka Pure Water in Sacramento for $50 a gallon. It caters to people seeking to avoid fluoride and other chemicals in their water.

Sammy Caiola

The organic living movement has taken a step toward something even more drastic — "unprocessed" water.

A growing number of people are seeking out “raw water,” described by some companies as unfiltered, untreated and unsterilized water from natural sources.

Proponents say it contains natural minerals and probiotics that are eliminated during the public water filtering process. They try to convince buyers to get away from fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals used to clean tap water. 

But Jay Lund, a UC Davis engineering professor who studies public water systems, said drinking water gets disinfected for good reason.

“We worked really hard to kill all the bad stuff in water, and it’s been really good for us," he said. "Now there might be some romantic appeal of going back to live water, but it could easily make you dead if you’re not careful.”

Lund’s referring to dangerous waterborne bacteria and nitrate exposure. California requires all bottled and vended water in California to be filtered and disinfected.

Lund said that water coming up from a spring does undergo a natural filtering process while running through the ground, but it could still contain dangerous contaminants. Experts recommend all water found in the wilderness be filtered. 

Raw water isn't widely available locally, but it is selling out at grocery stores in San Francisco. At one store, a 2.5 gallon glass urn starts around $60, according to Business Insider. Most of the water is coming from a small company in Oregon.

In Sacramento, there is an option for those seeking to get off the water grid. Alka Pure Water in West Sacramento sells three types of water — an alkaline water, a "pure" water, and a an ultra-distilled water that sells for $50 a gallon. 

Lund and other experts are confused about why people are suddenly questioning a public system that has become significantly safer over the last 100 years.

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based food safety lawyer, said he expects to see a lot of lawsuits from raw water enthusiasts who get sick. 

It’s really just a marketing scheme to spend a lot of money for something you could frankly drink out of a pond," he said. 

The movement echoes the "cold-pressed juice" fad, which took off when creators claimed the regular juicing process kills off "living enzymes" that make juice healthier. There is limited scientific evidence to support that theory, though price tags for the product remain high.

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