Kitty Geoghan, Section Editor - The Reporter

Before Winter Break, I put together a list of potential topics to cover on Skeptical Science Sundays throughout the spring. However, my plan was quickly interrupted when I discovered the new pseudoscience sweeping Silicon Valley at the end of 2017. I knew I had to cover this immediately, because it’s just too good not to. So let’s take a trip back to 4000 BC, before any form of recognizable water treatment, and enjoy a nice, tall, refreshing glass of Raw Water.

Silicon Valley’s Latest Health Craze

The idea behind Raw Water, a product distributed primarily by a California-based company called Live Water, is to provide an untreated, unfiltered source of water that allows drinkers to get in touch with the natural world like never before. Their website lists a whole spectrum of benefits to drinking their raw water, from “Super effective detoxification and elimination of wastes” to “Revers[ing] the aging process.” Aside from sounding like a really lame Pokemon attack, these benefits aren’t backed up by any scientific evidence, and pretty much sound like every other vague pseudoscientific “health supplement.” Only this time, the supplement in question has the potential to do serious harm.

Why Do We Filter Water Anyway?

Live Water founder Mukhande Singh, a man whose real name is actually Christopher Sandborn and is pretty much the epitome of white guys who converted to Zen Buddhism after taking one Philosophy course, explains that water filtration effectively “kills” the water in your tap or bottle. He says of his raw water, “If it sits around too long, it’ll turn green. People don’t even realize that because all their water’s dead, so they never see it turn green.” (He also believes that tap water has been poisoned with birth control and mind-control drugs like fluoride. Perhaps he would get along with Alex “Turn The Freakin’ Frogs Gay” Jones.) Apparently, having water that can go bad is considered positive evidence of its vitality rather than a serious inconvenience. As someone who grew up drinking skim milk because it lasts longer than 2%, I don’t get that at all, but I suppose if you have the disposable income to spend $36.99 on 2 gallons of water then wasting some of it at the end of the month is no big deal.

What Mr. Singh seems not to realize is that “killing water” with purification methods also kills organisms like cholera, Giardia, and adenovirus, as well as removing everything from arsenic to waterborne carcinogens. Basically, drinking unfiltered water can give you horrible diarrhea at best. Even if it was capable of providing the benefits listed on Live Water’s website, it hardly seems worth the risk. And since there’s no evidence that raw water provides any benefits at all, the choice seems obvious.

Water Filtration: Another Government Conspiracy? No.

Unfortunately, despite the clear risks, a lack of trust in the public water supply has led many Silicon Valley residents to make the switch to raw water. Such mistrust is perhaps not unwarranted, given what’s happening in Flint and other communities across the country. But intentionally exposing yourself to disease-causing pathogens that have been all but eliminated from our everyday consumption is not the way to get around it. Water purification is important, and properly maintained public water treatment systems are by and large a good thing. (And no, they don’t contain mind control drugs or turn frogs gay. Fluoride affects your teeth, not your brain.) The answer to the water crisis is policy change, not cholera. Raw Water is nothing more than another pseudoscientific money grab that preys on paranoia and insecurity.