Raw Water: Threat or menace?

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, January 24, 2018

By Danny Tyree

Thirty-plus years ago, aunt Addie Lee dropped in on the farmhouse that my parents used for storage and family cookouts. She quaffed a glass of sparkling tap water and waxed eloquent about how our good ol’ spring water put to shame the over-processed H2O from the municipal water works.

Dad didn’t have the heart to tell her that he had finally gotten fed up with continually repairing the pump and had connected to the county water line months earlier.

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Judging by the headlines, lots of people are still talking themselves into viewing unmodified spring water as a magic elixir.

According to cautionary tales from numerous sources (NBC News, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, etc.), there is currently a craze for “raw water” (unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized), sold for exorbitant prices and aimed at probiotics-obsessed consumers who just can’t wait to let the good bacteria and bad bacteria duke it out in their stomachs.

Looks as though the LGBTQ community is being pushed out of the spotlight by the SWMMTGS (Sheep With More Money Than Good Sense) community.

Perhaps there are a few bottlers with truly pristine water sources and tight quality control. But while the fad lasts, the nation faces a proliferation of (a) opportunists who would value profit ahead of the danger from fertilizer runoff, industrial waste and septic tank seepage and (b) individuals who have been encouraged to trespass and steal untested water wherever they find it bubbling from the ground.

My wife the microbiologist verifies that untreated water is a “convenient” way to get cholera, E. coli bacteria and the parasite-induced giardiasis intestinal disease. Perhaps the ad campaign for the spring water industry should be “Whatever doesn’t kill you, only makes our bank accounts stronger.” Or maybe the dysentery-acknowledging “First, you’ll pay out the wazoo. Then you’ll, well, you know. Let’s not get graphic.”

Numerous articles extol modern water treatment plants as one of the greatest public health accomplishment of the past century. But some Americans insist on having their coffee brewed with questionable water – and served in a “Third World’s Best Dad” mug.

Trendy individuals seem hellbent on living the way Mother Nature intended. But let’s not knock scientific progress. What Mother Nature intended for humans is to eat poisonous mushrooms, be caught totally unawares by hurricanes and be eaten by saber-tooth tigers. Mother Nature is like a vengeful ex-wife on steroids!

Armed with anecdotal evidence, hipsters are supposedly trying to relearn the lessons of their ancestors. But they ignore the advice about “Go to church every Sunday, refrain from sex until you’re married and wear out your store-bought goods before replacing them” and instead latch onto “We always drank water contaminated by cattle carcasses and seven of twelve siblings reached adulthood!”

When sales of raw water inevitably level off, look for the hucksters to expand their horizons far beyond beverages. They’ll tell us that, yeah, imbibing “natural” water is a good starting point, but unless we pay $60 a jug to do our laundry, pressure-wash the vinyl siding and fill the swimming pool, we’re merely delaying our doom.

Danny Tyree is a syndicated columnist.