Experts warn against recent "raw water" fad

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TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP / CBS Newspath) -- We all have our favorite drinking water, whether it's bottled or from the tap. But a new trend involving "raw water" has water experts warning you to be smart.

Maybe you've seen it already. The New York Times did a story about Silicon Valley's recent obsession with "raw water” and people paying as much as $60 for a few gallons of it.

Municipal water experts Waunda Barcus in St Petersburg and Chuck Weber in Tampa both recommend not drinking raw water.

Raw water is untreated and unfiltered water, which means it could have metals and other contaminants in it.

“Drinking raw water is taking a risk, rolling the dice. That's what our ancestors did and that's why they got cholera and typhoid,” Chuck Weber said.

Remember, just because water is clear doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink.

“The things that are harmful to you are things you don't see. The metals and other stuff don’t show up to the naked eye,” Wanda Barcus said.

“Some of the things we hear about often is (the parasite) Giardia, and that can cause very severe diarrhea and in some cases it can kill you,” Weber said.

But what about boxed and bottled water? How do you know what you’re getting?

"With bottled water, sometimes it’s just city water that's been bottled, sometimes it’s just spring water, raw water, and sometimes they label what treatment process they've used, if any. But you really don’t know for sure," Weber said.

Bottled water is also regulated by the FDA, not the EPA. According to Weber, the FDA has different regulations, doesn’t test as often and its criteria aren’t as strict as the EPA’s.

“You really don’t know for sure except for the municipal systems where we are required to report that information. Public water supplies are tested hundreds if not thousands of times a week,” Weber said.

So it’s probably not worth forking over a few extra bucks for your favorite brand of water unless you prefer a specific water source and can confirm it’s actually coming from there.

"Go online and research your products. I'm sure it’s safe because the government allows you to sell it but you never do know there are a lot of recalls," Barcus said.

Experts also say don’t always trust what’s printed on the water’s label because labels are essentially advertising meant to grab your attention in an aisle filled with competition.

Instead, double check the label by researching the company online or calling to try and find where the water is sourced from and how it is treated, if at all.