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08

The “raw” truth about your water

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The “raw” truth about your water

Here at DrinkTap.org, we like to remind readers to make informed decisions when it comes to drinking water. Of course, there’s no shortage of voices claiming to have the best information.

Misleading claims about water often harm consumer confidence. But other times, they can harm consumers themselves.

Witness the seemingly new trend of “raw water.” For the purposes of this article, we’ll define raw water as water of unknown quality that is subject to surface or underground contamination and is not professionally treated. It can be rainwater or collected directly from surface water (lakes, rivers and streams) or groundwater (aquifers).

As noted in recent reports, there are companies selling raw water as a health benefit, even dressing it up as a variety of bottled water on the shelves. Fortunately, most of the media coverage and commentary of this trend has been critical (and in some cases darkly hilarious.)

If you paid attention in science class, you may have thought the notion of drinking potentially contaminated water fell out of favor in the mid-1800s, when the English physician John Snow linked a cholera outbreak to a public water supply. But if not -- or if you did not trust your science teacher -- allow us to affirm:

1.    The proper treatment, disinfection and delivery of drinking water is one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century. (The 21st century hasn’t done anything to change this fact.)
2.    Water that is not treated and disinfected is at higher (much higher) risk of carrying waterborne disease.
3.    Your community water system is required to monitor, treat and report out on the quality of your drinking water, so you can have a high degree of confidence in its safety.
4.    As a consumer, you can help keep your water safe by removing opportunities for contamination in the home, e.g. locating and replacing lead pipes, fittings and solder.

(It’s worthwhile to note than many people draw their water directly from private wells. EPA has a lot of information available to help well water owners maintain their wells and test their water.)

Your local water utility goes through a rigorous process of treating your water to protect you and your family’s health. But you don’t have to just take our word for it. Contact your local water utility to talk to them about the safety of your local tap water and to review your community’s annual consumer confidence report to understand where your water comes from and how it’s treated.

Finally, be wary of companies and individuals that profit from selling you water or water treatment devices with unproven scientific claims. Your best bet is to talk with your local water utility or health department to separate the “raw” facts from fiction.

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