Over the past several years, we’ve seen a drastic increase in the demand for all-natural products across several industries. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of both the environmental and health-related risks associated with many chemical products, preservatives, pesticides, and packing materials and as a result, are demanding more transparency when it comes to the manufacturing and production processes. As people become more mindful of the substances they consume, several trends have gained traction including an increased demand for organic foods, reduced confidence in conventional medicine and pharmaceuticals, and an increased demand for all-natural alternatives and holistic treatment options.
One trend that swept through Silicon Valley in 2017 was untreated “raw” or “live” drinking water. At $6 per gallon, the water comes directly from local springs and remains completely unfiltered, unsterilized and untreated. That’s a significant premium for water that involves no treatment or infrastructure to produce, compared to <2 cents per gallon for most municipal tap water across North America.
Advocates of raw water warn against the chemicals used by water treatment plants and also note the additives and pharmaceuticals – including acetaminophen, caffeine, codeine, antibiotics, and pesticides – that have been detected in several drinking water supplies across the country. While some of these claims are accurate, raw water poses its own set of health risks.
Raw surface water can easily be contaminated by animals and can harbor pathogens such as Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium, Vibrio cholerae, and Escherichia coli. Groundwater can contain arsenic, pesticides, radionuclides, and other contaminants transported through the soil and into the aquifer. Septic system and gasoline or chemical tank leaks, improper disposal of hazardous waste, landfills and even road salt can result in contaminated wells, springs and aquifers making untreated water a risky choice. Even water sources located far from industrial and agricultural activities can be contaminated through atmospheric deposits and rainwater.
Water treatment plants monitor their source water closely for these pollutants. The EPA regulates for over 90 contaminants and must identify and list unregulated contaminants through a process defined by the Safe Drinking Water Act. The unregulated contaminants (listed on the Contaminant Candidate List) are closely monitored and reviewed, and new regulations are developed regularly for contaminants on the list that pose the highest risk. Because of the wide range of contaminants present in source water, water treatment processes often include several treatment stages and methods to remove as many of the contaminants as possible. Reverse osmosis units can remove compounds such as sodium, nitrates, mercury, lead, arsenic, and cyanide to name a few. Biofiltration units remove carbon, solids, manganese, iron, arsenic, ammonia and nitrates while disinfectants help protect distribution systems from pathogens and other microbial contaminants.
While it would be ideal to have access to pristine and uncontaminated water sources, our industrial and agricultural activities have impacted more water sources than many realize and as a result contamination levels can vary drastically day-to-day and location to location. So, whether you choose to drink raw water, bottled water or municipal water, it’s important to research the quality of the source water, confirm that water quality reports are made available regularly, and understand what treatment or monitoring methods are being applied to protect against common contaminants.
Our range of microbial monitoring tools can help you identify and track microbial contaminants through any system. Our 2nd generation ATP methods immediately quantify the total size of the biological population while qPCR and metagenomics testing can identify specific types of microbes for more targeted identification of potential pathogens.