The latest in a string of health fads, the “raw water diet” has been making headlines at The New York Times, The Verge, TIME, and Vox. Supporters of this controversial trend are renouncing bottled and tap water for “raw” water—water that has not been filtered, processed, or treated—in the belief that it offers better hydration, detoxification, and immune system activation than municipal sources. And this trend comes at a price: one 2.5 gallon jug can cost upwards of $16.00.
Loosely considered part of the water consciousness movement, raw water drinkers argue that public water supplies and disinfection practices are unreliable and, therefore, dangerous. Lead pipes, aging infrastructure, and fluoridation top the list of grievances, leading proponents to choose expensive, untreated alternatives over lobbying for modernization and infrastructure updates.
Given widely publicized reports around contamination and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violations, it’s no surprise that North Americans are more concerned than ever about the safety and quality of their drinking water. But before you reach for a glass of raw water, it’s important you know the facts.
The Risks of Consuming Raw Water
Water purification is critical for preventing the consumption and spread of viruses and bacteria. Since the early 1900s, we’ve relied on an evolving range of disinfection methods to protect public health and optimize water quality. These efforts have had big payoffs, too: water purifications processes have led to dramatic decreases in rates of typhoid, cholera, and a variety of other illnesses and diseases.
When you consume water that has not been treated, you are putting yourself at risk of needlessly ingesting harmful chemicals and bacteria. Even a seemingly pristine, natural water source may still house parasites and viruses that can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
According to a 2009 UNESCO report, naturally occurring arsenic pollution in groundwater affects nearly 140 million people in 70 countries around the world. Pollution is also a major contributing factor for water quality; many water contamination problems can be linked to agricultural, industrial, mining and untreated urban runoff and wastewater.
UV-LED Water Purification
Most, if not all, of the concerns raised by raw water drinkers are addressed by UV-LED water purification. A growing number of municipalities are looking to UV-based technologies as an efficient, effective, and environmentally-friendly way to deliver clean, quality drinking water to the masses.
One key advantage of UV water purification is its scalability: these water purification systems can be installed for single-home use, or scaled to operate at a municipal level. This means that even in areas where infrastructure is outdated and there is risk of compromised public water supply, you can still guarantee safe, potable drinking water at the point of use. Best of all, UV-LED technologies protect water’s healthy minerals while simultaneously sterilizing harmful bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants.
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