Marler notes the very existence of a disclaimer on the Live Water website suggests the company understands the possibility that its water could be contaminated.
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“A disclaimer like this is no different than disclaimers you see in restaurants,” he says. “From a liability perspective it helps them, but it doesn’t absolve them of liability. If someone brings the water to a class of kindergarteners, and you wind up with 25 kids with E. coli and half of them with kidney failure, yeah, they’ll get sued, and it’s completely unlikely this disclaimer will have any legal merit. The manufacturer is going to be liable for selling a product with a pathogen that can sicken or kill you. That’s also true for a retailer selling the product.”
For Marler, the trendiness of untreated water is similar to the anti-vaccination movement, which he says is grounded in a societal lack of long-term memory. He recalls seeing people ravaged by polio as a child, which few, if any, people in their 20s today would remember.
“Most of us in the United States have good, potable water to consume, so we don’t know anyone who got E. coli from drinking water, or Cryptosporidium, or cholera,” he says. “People imagine there was a time in the world when we ran around drinking out of streams—except they don’t remember that people also died of waterborne diseases. That’s why we have a public water system. We can try to educate the public about deliberately drinking untreated water, but consenting adults can be stupid if they like. When it comes to your child, your pregnant wife, your buddy with cancer, or your grandparents, do not give them raw water. Just don’t.”
Food Quality & Safety magazine emailed Live Water asking about their bacterial testing process, fecal coliform standard, viral and protozoan pathogen testing, and the period and frequency of testing. At press time, they had not sent a response.