Fear Death by Water

Tuesday, January 02, 2018


Cascading water from Cheesman Dam’s spillway in Jefferson County, Colorado, 2016. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith. Library of Congress, Gates Frontiers Fund Colorado Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive.

In December the New York Times profiled the “water consciousness movement,” whose adherents include the man who invented Juicero. In San Francisco, 2.5 gallons of the untreated stuff will set you back nearly $37. Throughout the story, medical professionals were frequently called upon to say that there is no proof that raw water is good for you, and plenty of evidence that this idea is perhaps a bad one.

The founder of Live Water, Mukhande Singh, started selling spring water from Opal Springs in Culver, Ore., three years ago, but it was a small local operation until this year. Marketing materials show Mr. Singh (né Christopher Sanborn) sitting naked and cross-legged on a hot spring, his long brown hair flowing over his chest. Pure water can be obtained by using a reverse osmosis filter, the gold standard of home water treatment, but for Mr. Singh, the goal is not pristine water, per se. “You’re going to get 99 percent of the bad stuff out,” he said. “But now you have dead water.”

He said “real water” should expire after a few months. His does. “It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery,” he said. “If it sits around too long, it’ll turn green. People don’t even realize that because all their water’s dead, so they never see it turn green.”

Mr. Singh believes that public water has been poisoned. “Tap water? You’re drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them,” he said. “Chloramine, and on top of that they’re putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it’s a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health.” (There is no scientific evidence that fluoride is a mind-control drug, but plenty to show that it aids dental health.)


Le buveur d’eau (detail), by Henri-Charles Guérard, 1884. The New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.

In April 1900 the San Francisco Chronicle profiled the members of the Hundred Years Club in Chicago, whose adherents included a number of senior citizens who pledged to live a century. They offered several tips to readers interested in living an equally long time. Mary Ann Otis doesn’t eat pies or cakes. Horace Yates stays close to good horses, who “exud[e] health-giving vapor from [their] skin.” Fernando Jones added, “I never drink raw water.” Two years later, the Examiner, also in immortality-obsessed San Francisco, interviewed a 106-year-old athlete who gave the same advice. “Of water there are three bad kinds,” he said. “Raw water is an aquarium, boiled water a graveyard, and mineral water fills the body full of lime and other deposits, which ossify the muscles, arteries, and veins, and generally bring on all of the symptoms of old age. Distilled water is the only safe kind to drink.” In 1894 the Austin American-Statesman ran a story that predicted, “Nature sets us great examples, and the time is not far distant when raw water will be a thing of the barbaric past.” From the Chronicle:

Fernando Jones, millionaire real estate man, said: “For one thing, I don’t believe in snoozing in the day time to lengthen life. I never go to bed the same day I get up, but I do get up the same day I go to bed. It is the sluggard who sleeps in the day time. People, I think, sleep too much. Even at my advanced age I find that six or seven hours sleep is sufficient. Another thing, I never drink raw water. I haven’t drunk a pint of raw water in twenty years. I drink most everything else except raw water. Too much stress is put on the necessity for fresh air as being a great life preserver and prolonger. This talk about sleeping with open windows, winter and summer, is a mistake. Even birds, whose brains are small, know that it is wise to put their heads under their wings, protected from fresh air, when they sleep.”