San Franciscans are opting to ditch bottled water in pursuit of alternatives that are less commercial. Advertised as “raw water,” untreated, unsterilized, and unfiltered water is trendiest amongst the young techy city dwellers, especially since the most popular branded bottled water is often out of stock. Live Water serves spring or “raw” water in glass orbs, costing $36.99 each and $14.99 per refill.
Oregon-based startup Live Water excavates raw water from Opal Spring, an ancient aquifer that the company says it has tested extensively and has shown no harmful contamination. “Our bottling facility is a sterile environment in which we triple rinse and wash our glass jugs,” reads their website. “We also test each batch for harmful bacteria, and no one has ever gotten sick from drinking the water we bottle.”
The company transports and stores the raw water in refrigerated facilities to protect the healthy probiotics present in the water. While Live Water says it provides a convenient and efficient system for people who prefer to have their water delivered, they do advocate people collecting their own spring water as the best choice.
However, the new industry is challenged by many scientific controversies. Experts warn that drinking raw water can lead to Cholera, Giardia, and many other fatal diseases caused by bacteria that naturally find shelter in ponds, rivers, and creeks. Bill Marler, an attorney and health food advocate, argues that, thanks to the availability of bottled treated water, many age-old diseases that are caused by unclean water have practically become extinct. However, Live Water argues that bottled water or as they term it “dead water” often lacks necessary minerals that are present in the initial source of water before going through industrial treatment.
Another alternative that is advised to be safer and still off the water grid is from a source provided by Zero Mass Water, a startup that helps locals source raw water around their houses. Founded in 2015, Zero Mass Water have been installing sources around the world and, in late 2017, began work in California.
“You take a breath of air and you own the air you breathe, and yet water has its own supply chain,” says Cody Friesen, Zero Mass Water’s founder and CEO. “Our vision is perfect water for every person, in every place.” Zero Mass Water provides a solar-panel-powered device that absorbs H2O and turns it into fresh water. “What we did was develop a set of hygroscopic materials that are porous enough to rapidly absorb water from the atmosphere. We use sunlight to drive a process that takes water back out of the materials,” he explains. Making up to 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of it a day, the water is put through a mineralized filter and diverted straight to the household’s kitchen tap.
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