Raw water sells in California supermarkets for almost $9 a gallon—it’s a fad that gets pricier as it adopts more adherents.
Raw water comes directly, untreated, from natural sources. The water skips the filtration and chemical processing that is often required for most tap water in the United States. Instead, raw water goes straight from spring to the buyer. Advocates of raw water around the United States get it shipped, The Oregonian reported.
Live Water, a company that bottles untreated spring water from Opal Springs in Oregon, and another unrelated company, Tourmaline Spring from Maine, continue to fetch the most media publicity as the movement grows.
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In central Oregon, the source of Live Water’s untreated spring water runs out of the tap, and only costs local residents a water bill of less than half a penny per gallon, reported The Oregonian. Sold elsewhere, people attracted to raw water’s purported benefits pay a weighty markup.
“People want it,” Paul Knowles, a board member of Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, told The Oregonian. “It just sells on its own.”
“The water’s been doing really well,” added Edwin Diaz, a supermarket manager in Calabasas, California. “It’s kind of a specialty item.”
Christopher Sanborn founded Live Water in 2015 as Fountain of Truth Spring Water after discovering Opal Springs during a trip to Oregon.
“I was on a road trip looking for springs and thinking about moving to Oregon because I enjoyed my time there so much,” Sanborn told The Oregonian. “When I realized how amazing the water was, it felt like perfect alignment.”
But some have voiced doubts about the claims of Sanborn and his fans. They praise the advancement in public water treatment facilities and their link to the lessening of disease from drinking water.
“Clean water has made such a difference in people’s life expectancies in the United States and other industrialized countries, so I can’t imagine why you would want to drink water that wasn’t and thereby endanger your health,” Michelle Francl, head of the chemistry department at Bryn Mawr College, told The Washington Post.
“The lack of clean water kills hundreds of thousands of children a year,” added Francl. “So this notion of raw water is crazy.”
But raw water pioneers, Bryan Pullen and Seth Pruzansky of Tourmaline Spring, claim their water is both untreated and passes all existing regulations. They bottled 300,000 gallons of the 35 million that their spring in Maine produces each year, the Portland Press Herald reported. Negative reactions from media attention to their operation prompted them to clarify their operation.
“The news organizations need to stop interviewing emergency room doctors and talk to geologists, hydrogeologists and laboratories and people who understand the Earth and water quality,” Pullen told the Press Herald. “It’s histrionics, getting everybody all fired up over nothing. If we’re morons, what is the state regulator at the Maine Drinking Water program? How about the FDA? Are these all morons, too? They allow us to do this.”
The spring Pullen and Pruzansky use as the source of raw water they sell around the country isn’t the only local, clean, natural source. Other bottled water companies pass the same set of tests, but still choose to treat their water. Even the founders of Tourmaline Spring sell a treated and filtered version of their water under another label, but that isn’t why they are getting attention.
???Tourmaline Spring water fresh out of the source, Tourmaline crystals?? provided by Jeff Morrison, with the antique springhouse preserving the source bubbling up inside of it! ?This is an iconic photo. The springhouse was built in 1936 and remains in perfect condition, unaffected by the weather due to the temperature of the spring water bubbling up after 1000s of years under the ground! ?❄️??#tourmalinespring #sacredlivingwater #maine
Despite their reputation as raw water pioneers, a large percentage of the water that passes through their spring goes unsold, at least currently.
The company also has yet to make a profit in 14 years of operation, and they still push through critics that sour their efforts.
“You wouldn’t believe the things people are saying to us,” Pruzansky told the Press Herald. “What they’re insinuating is we could potentially poison people, which is completely not true at all. We have people basically threatening to kill us; that was the worst.”