"Raw" water trend: "Healing tonic" or health hazard?
A new drinking water trend is sparking some concerns among doctors, as some people are dropping bottled water for natural, untreated spring water, also known as "raw" water.
In a marketing campaign for Live Water, the quest for raw water is cast in a sacred light.
"A surge of energy and peacefulness entered my being," the video claims.
In a San Francisco co-op, the pitch is working. Empty shelves are common here where Live Water sells for more than $16 a bottle, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil.
The company claims their spring water is free of industrial toxins and rich in healthy microbes because it is not processed. Despite the exotic footage, Live Water sources from the same monitored spring that feeds the municipal tap in Madras, Oregon.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say water is filtered for a reason – and warn untreated water may contain bacteria, viruses and parasites – no matter how clean it looks.
"If you're not filtering it, if you're not disinfecting it then you are creating a risk for yourself or anybody you give the water to of diseases and other illnesses that can come from the water," said Vincent Hill, chief of the CDC Waterborne Disease Prevention branch.
In Harrison, Maine, Tourmaline Spring has become another source of so-called raw water.
Bryan Pullen and his partner, Seth Pruzansky, said their water is the purest you'll ever taste, in part because of its age.
"The hydrogeologist that we had come up here said it's at least 10,000 years old. At least," Pruzansky said.
"Is older water better water?" Dokoupil asked.
"Yes. Yes," they both responded.
"How pure was the Earth 10,000 years ago? Man has contributed all these contaminants. Look, in the old days, you could drink outta every lake, river, and stream on the planet… you can't do that anymore," Pullen said.
Asked what they'd say to people who are laughing because "water is water" and "you drink it when you're thirsty," Pullen said: "No, water's not water."
Tourmaline Spring is tested regularly for contaminants to ensure it meets the same standards as the community water system.
"This water is really, really important because of what's not in it. Not because of what's in it. It's so incredibly naturally pure. It has to be a healing tonic. It has to be. 'Cause we're water creatures," Pullen said. "I have customers that swear by it."
But they haven't attracted enough believers to turn a profit.
The source provides 35 million gallons of water per year but 1 percent actually ends up in the bottles. The rest flows right down the drain at a cost in lost revenue of $4 per second.
We decided to see if it was worth the cost.
"It is tasty. It's very good," Dokoupil said after sampling the water.
"It's the best," Pullen said.
"Mother Nature doesn't lie," Pruzansky said.
Experts say raw water may contain beneficial minerals but a healthy diet can provide the same health benefits, and it may not be worth the risk of the harmful bacteria and parasites often found in unfiltered water.
We reached out to Live Water, but it declined comment.