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Silicon Valley’s Latest Craze: Raw Water

SAN FRANCISCO -- The latest baffling Silicon Valley trend has public health officials concerned.

Raw water, which is spring water that has not been treated or filtered or sterilized in any way, has become a hit in the Bay Area. At least one grocer in San Francisco is selling 2.5-gallon jugs for $60.

An Oregon company that sells raw water says it tests the bacteria in each bottle and advertises its product as having a shelf life of "one lunar cycle" (about 30 days).

It's a bona fide Silicon Valley health craze, but take a two and half hour drive east to Nevada City and it's nothing new.

"Personally I've drank a lot of spring water. I drink a lot of water sources," Aaron Perdue said.

Regionally, there are a number of spots set up for people to fill their jugs -- each with a clearly posted warning. The draw for raw water fans is what they're not getting from the taps.

"No chemicals."

According to a New York Times piece on the trend, proponents argue that filtration and added fluoride in tap water kills beneficial bacteria.

But food safety advocates disagree.

"Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water," attorney Bill Marler told the Business Insider.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, untreated water can contain cholera, Hepatitis A, E. coli, carcinogens and metals. Untreated water may even contain parasites like Giardia, which can cause, among other things, vomiting and diarrhea.

But people who have been drinking the water for years say it makes them feel more healthy not less.

Perdue says crowd sourced testing on the water has convinced him it's safe to drink. He says he knows the risks, and he knows other people who got ill from other raw water sources.

"Maybe on a hippie farm somewhere. Other folks get Giardia, but I don't come down with it," he said.

Environmental health is another draw. Raw water requires refillable containers, and that ultimately means less plastic floating around.

See the FDA's guidelines for bottled water here.