Mary Jane Dillingham – Water Quality Manager, Lewiston Water Division, Auburn Water District
The recent uprising of the “raw” water fad is somewhat frightening. “Raw” means the water has not been processed or purified. While the raw water being sold, at a premium price, may be free of contamination, it is risky to assume that drinking any untested and untreated surface water or groundwater is safe. The World Health Organization stated that more than 3.4 million people were dying each year as a result of water related diseases such as typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A, dysentery and polio making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world. Though it may look clean, many of the natural and man-made contaminants are completely invisible in water and water is an excellent medium for transporting these contaminants. Research human history and you will find that some of society’s greatest achievements were developed from combating illnesses and death resulting from drinking untreated water. Our planet’s human population levels are the highest in history at 7.4 billion, primarily due to sanitation effectiveness.
What’s concerning about the “raw” water fad, is that it questions whether treated water is healthy. Water treatment is a barrier that protects us from contracting chemical and microbial disease. Invoking a distrust of our public water systems and steering people with misinformation to promote unsafe practices is certainly an action that needs to be questioned. Consider 2.1 billion people on our planet lack access to safe water. Many of these people only have access to “raw” water and it is unsafe and causing disease. Our safely managed water treatment systems ensure that the people served by those systems have access to the most basic requirement to life.