Raw water: the unsterilised health craze that could give you diarrhoea

Its adherents say it is full of good things that ordinary filtered tap water has lost. Its critics say it might well give you ‘beaver fever’ – among other illnesses.

Name: Raw water.

Age: It’s always been with us.

Appearance: Clear, at first; green, if you leave it sitting around for a while.

How can water be raw? It’s spring water, straight from the ground.

What’s it for? People drink it. Raw water is the latest health fad. A company called Live Water, for example, supplies jugs of it to those living in and around San Francisco and LA.

Is it cheaper than ordinary bottled water? No. In the US, raw water goes for anywhere between $2.50 and $6 a gallon.

That’s more than they pay for petrol! What do they do to it? They leave it alone – it’s untreated, unfiltered and unsterilised.

So it’s got nothing in it? It’s got plenty in it – algae, microbes, minerals. Adherents say it has a fresher taste, better “mouthfeel” and a range of beneficial probiotic bacteria you just don’t get in tap water.

What do its detractors say? That it might well also contain viruses, animal faeces and carcinogens. Of particular concern is giardiasis, a parasitic intestinal complaint commonly known as “beaver fever”.

That’s crazy. If I want to pay money to get diarrhoea, I know a little all-night cafe just up the road. The raw-water craze, sometimes called the “water-consciousness movement”, is born of legitimate concerns about lead still present in some municipal water supplies, and unfounded paranoia about fluoride added to tap water.

What sort of paranoia? “Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it’s a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health,” Mukhande Singh, the founder of Live Water, told the New York Times.

I mean, he did invite us to call him a conspiracy theorist. He did. It’s the sort of thinking that draws believers from both the far left and the far right, and wherever the credulous gather in numbers sufficient to sustain a business selling dirty water for six bucks a gallon.

Why would anyone take the risk? Raw-water drinkers claim it’s more hydrating than tap water.

More hydrating? Once I would have said no one is that stupid, but it has been a weird few years. It has at that.

Do say: “Raw water – just as nature intended.”

Don’t say: “Nature intends to kill you.”