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Raw Water: The Latest Craze?

Raw Water: The Latest Craze?

On December 29, 2017, the New York Times published an article about the sudden increased demand for unfiltered, untreated water, also known as raw water. Supporters content that treated water removes beneficial minerals and kills healthful bacteria called probiotics. There are systems available that allow people to collect water directly from the atmosphere from around their homes. Natural springs are another source of raw water. Raw water is actively being marketed across the U.S. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/dining/raw-water-unfiltered.html

Water regulation in the U.S. is managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are responsible for regulating drinking water quality in public water systems, and set maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants.

Individual water systems consist of 2 sources:

·         Nonpublic sources: bottled water or water from springs, streams, ponds, and shallow wells not intended for drinking

·         Private or individual water systems: private ground water (wells and cisterns) and larger private water systems that serve more than one residence

Public drinking water systems use various methods to provide safe drinking water. The most common method is a series of steps:

·         Coagulation and Flocculation: Chemicals with a positive charge are added to the water, neutralizing the negative charge of dirt and other dissolved particles in the water. When this occurs, the particles bind with the chemicals and form larger particles called floc

·         Sedimentation: During sedimentation, floc settles to the bottom of the water supply

·         Filtration: Once the floc has settled, the clear water on top passes through filters (sand, gravel, and charcoal) in order to remove dissolved particles, such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals

·         Disinfection: After the water has been filtered, a disinfectant (such as chlorine or chloramine) may be added in order to kill any remaining parasites, bacteria, and viruses, and to protect the water from germs when it is piped to homes and businesses

Bottled Water

Most bottled water comes from a ground water source. One of the key taste differences between tap water and bottled water is due to how the water is disinfected:

·         Distillation: water is boiled, and the steam is condensed to remove salts, metals, minerals, asbestos, particles, and some organic materials

·         Micron Filtration: water is filtered through screens with microscopic holes

·         Ozonation: water is disinfected using ozone, an unstable gas, which kills most microbes

·         Reverse Osmosis: water is forced under pressure to pass through a membrane, leaving contaminants behind

·         Ultraviolet (UV) light: water is passed through UV light, which kills most microbes

To learn about the quality of bottled water, begin by reading the label. The label may include the type of bottled water, its source, and the way it is treated. If the water comes from a public water system and has not been treated to meet FDA’s definition of “purified” or “sterile” water, the label must state that the source is from a community water system. Types of bottled water:

·         Well water and artesian water are tapped through a well

·         Spring water is collected as it flows to the surface

·         Ground water can be either

·         Distilled water: steam from boiling water is re-condensed and bottled. Distilling water kills microbes and removes water’s natural minerals

·         Drinking water: water intended for human consumption and sealed in bottles with no ingredients, although it may contain safe and suitable disinfectants. Fluoride may be added

·         Mineral water: ground water that naturally contains 250 or more parts per million of total dissolved solids (such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, chromium, sulfur, copper)

·         Purified water: water that originates from any source. Purified water is essentially free of all chemicals, and may also be free of microbes if treated by distillation or reverse osmosis

·         Sterile water: water that originates from any source. Sterilized water is free from all microbes

·         Carbonated water, soda water, seltzer water, sparkling water, and tonic water are considered soft drinks and are not regulated as bottled water


Community water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the amount of fluoride found in water to achieve optimal prevention of tooth decay. For children younger than age 8, fluoride helps strengthen the adult (permanent) teeth that are developing under the gums. For adults, drinking water with fluoride supports tooth enamel, keeping teeth strong and healthy. Because of its contribution to the dramatic decline in tooth decay over the past 70 years, CDC named community water fluoridation as 1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Water Contamination

Contamination of drinking water supplies can occur in the source water as well as in the distribution system after water treatment has already occurred. Sources of water contamination include:

·         Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (arsenic, radon, uranium)

·         Local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, concentrated feeding operations

·         Manufacturing processes

·         Sewer overflows or wastewater releases

Drinking unfiltered, non-disinfected water, such as raw water, can cause the following illnesses:

Top causes of illness outbreaks in Public Water Systems (from highest to lowest frequency):

·         Giardia: parasite that causes vomiting and diarrhea

·         Legionella: bacteria that causes pneumonia

·         Norovirus: virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea

·         Shigella: bacteria that causes vomiting and diarrhea

·         Campylobacter: bacteria that causes vomiting and diarrhea

·         Copper exposure: naturally occurring metal that can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and kidney and liver disease

·         Salmonella: bacteria that causes vomiting and diarrhea

·         Hepatitis A: virus that affects the liver

·         Cryptosporidium: parasite that causes vomiting and diarrhea

·         E. coli, excess fluoride (tie): E. coli is a bacteria that causes vomiting and diarrhea

EPA regulations that protect public drinking water systems do not apply to privately owned wells or any other individual water system, such as rainwater collection. As a result, owners of individual water systems are responsible for ensuring that their water is safe from contaminants.

Top causes of illness outbreaks in Individual (Private) Water Systems (from highest to lowest frequency):

·         Hepatitis A

·         Giardia

·         Campylobacter

·         Shigella

·         E. coli

·         Cryptosporidium, Salmonella (tie)

·         Arsenic, Gasoline, Nitrate, Phenol, Selenium, Yersinia enterocolitica (tie)


Rainwater is not as pure as you might think, so you can’t assume it’s safe to drink:

·         Rain can wash different types of contaminants into the water you collect (for example, bird poop on your roof could end up in your water barrel or tank)

·         Rainwater can carry bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemicals that can make you sick

·         Dust, smoke, and soot from the air can be dissolved in rainwater before it lands on your roof

·         Roofing materials, gutters, piping, and storage materials can introduce harmful chemicals like asbestos, lead, and copper to the water

·         Dirt and germs can be washed into collected rainwater from the roof, especially when rain follows several days of dry weather



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