By David H. Martin

Is the ‘raw water’ fad just a possible public health problem? As such, it was addressed by Dr. Kelly Reynolds, WC&P Public Health Editor in her February On Tap column, The Growing Raw Water Trend: Healthy Innovation or Deadly Practice?

Or, is it also an opportunity for dealers? To an alert water treatment professional, the recent and much written about subject of raw or natural drinking water presents an unusual opportunity to polish one’s reputation as a community water expert by speaking out about untreated or unfiltered water being bottled and sold in some parts of the US.

  • Offer to speak on raw water (and other contemporary water problems) before fraternal organization meetings in your marketing area.
  • our purpose is to educate consumers about health concerns and solutions.
  • Polish your ‘water authority’ image using local print and broadcast media, while generating valuable publicity.
  • Take the opportunity to talk about industry solutions for drinking water concerns.

Does the IBWA have a position on raw water?
Nancy Culora, VP, Communications of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) offered the association’s position on raw water in this statement:

“IBWA is aware of recent media attention that has been focused on raw or untreated bottled water. It is further evidence that consumers are focusing on healthy hydration. However, we share the concerns of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and several scientific experts that some companies marketing raw water may not be complying with all US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

“It is vital for the safety of companies producing bottled water—whether it is treated or untreated—to follow all FDA rules and regulations. Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by FDA. These regulatory requirements include: source water approval and testing, standards of identity, standards of quality, good manufacturing practices, plant construction and sanitation and finished product testing.”

In addition, IBWA’s Bob Hirst, VP, Education, Science and Technical Relations advised WC&P that ultraviolet (UV) and/or ozone disinfection are used by most bottlers in the US. “These processes do not change the molecular structure of water,” added Hirst.

While the Water Quality Association (WQA) had not issued a formal statement on raw water before this issue went to press, Communications Director Wes Bleed reports that the WQA is looking into the subject. Also, it is worth noting that many products have been certified by the association for effective reduction of a wide range of drinking water contaminants.

Here are some of the facts and details about raw water that every water treatment specialist should know:

What is raw water?
Raw water is H2O that comes straight from the environment and has not been treated or purified in any way. This includes rainwater, groundwater and water from streams, rivers and lakes. Also known as natural water, raw water has not been subjected to any treatment to render it suitable for human consumption, nor have any minerals, ions, particles or living organisms been removed. It can be turned into safe drinking water at water treatment plants using a variety of methods including filtration and chemical treatment.

Where is raw water found?
Raw water can be found above ground in places such as lakes and ponds or in streams, rivers or creeks, as well as in underground sources including wells, caves or underground streams.

What are some common contaminants found in raw water?
Depending on its source of origin, raw water can potentially contain multiple contaminants or impurities in varying quantities, due to the contact it has with the earth and the atmosphere. These can be in the form of dissolved or suspended gases and organic or mineral matter. Raw water will usually contain humic acid, a complex acid created when plants decompose. This is one of the main ways raw water becomes discolored. Minerals, such as calcium and magnesium carbonates, are also commonly found in raw water. Salt, dissolved oxygen molecules and particles of clay and silt may also be found. Most importantly, raw water can also contain microorganisms, such as viruses and bacteria, including E. coli. Because raw water has not been treated, many consider it unsafe for human consumption, unless it has been stringently tested. Go to to read recent articles on raw water in major media, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Below are some talking points on the subject for dealers addressing consumers:

  • Hold your canteen under a natural spring and you’ll come away with crystal-clear water, potentially brimming with beneficial bacteria, as well as minerals from the earth. That’s what proponents of the raw-water movement are banking on: selling people on the idea of drinking water that contains the things they say nature intended without the chemicals, such as chlorine, often used in urban water treatment processes.
  • “Naturally probiotic. Perfected by nature,” boasts bottler Live Water, which is said to sell raw water sourced from Oregon’s Opal Spring.
  • One of the defining characteristics of natural mineral waters is their original purity. These waters originate from protected underground water sources and must be safe to drink at source, in its natural state, without disinfection or chemical treatment. Natural mineral water can only come from specific designated groundwater sources, such as natural exits or boreholes.
  • No two types of bottled waters are the same. Each natural mineral water has a very distinctive taste. The taste depends on the specific mineral composition, which is related to the geological make-up and the natural environment from where the water is abstracted.
  • Hardly a bargain, Live Water sells for $36.99 per each 2.5-gallon glass bottle at Rainbow Grocery, a cooperative in San Francisco’s Mission District, according to The New York Times.
  • By shunning recommended water safety practices, experts warn, raw-water purveyors may also be selling things you don’t want to drink, such as dangerous bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make you sick.•  Says Vince R. Hill, who heads the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch at the CDC: “I think it’s also important for people to know where their water comes from, what’s in it, how it’s delivered and whether it’s safe to drink.”
  • All in all, “we have an incredibly safe and reliable water supply” in the United States, says David Jones, professor of history of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
  • US EPA has put in place certain standards to ensure tap water is safe to drink. The FDA regulates water that is bottled and sold to consumers. By federal law, FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as US EPA regulations that govern tap water. And, in some cases, the bottled water regulations are more stringent.
  • Experts say raw water may contain minerals, but you can get the minerals you need from a healthy diet. The risk of harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites is not worth any benefit from trace minerals.
  • If you want more probiotics, look to yogurt or other fermented foods like kefir.

Raw water, the latest trend in organic natural culture, has gained national media attention in recent months. WC&P Public Health Editor, Kelly A. Reynolds wrote about untreated water concerns in her On Tap column in February. With the advent of this new fad, this columnist encourages water treatment dealers to showcase their expertise in drinking water problems and solutions to local consumers and media.

About the author
David H. Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at  (708) 848-8404 or by email at


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