What Is Spring Water And Is It Good For You?
Spring water is rich in minerals which is important when you consider that the human body is nearly two-thirds water. This natural resource is essential for purification, removal of toxins, and it allows every organ (including your brain which is 75% water) to function as it should. Having access to pure, clean, and mineral-rich drinking water should never be considered an expensive luxury, it is essential for a healthy mind and body and it is what humans have been consuming for millennia.
The topic of drinking water is shrouded in misinformation, so it’s difficult to make an informed decision as to what type of water you should consume. Many people opt for bottled water to avoid the chemicals that are abundant in tap water systems, but the quality of bottled water is questionable, at best. Unfortunately, the bottled water industry further adds to the drinking water dilemma by failing to disclose where they actually source water, and make misleading and downright false claims on their product packaging. So where does this leave you?
Spring water has been around since the dawn of time and its natural mineral content can provide unparalleled health benefits. Spring water is naturally rich in minerals and stands on its own when compared to municipal tap or bottled water, which have their respective levels of chlorine, antibacterial chemicals, and pharmaceuticals – although the big plastic industry has gone to great lengths to deny these truths.
For the most part, consumers have been convinced that bottled water is better than municipal sources when in reality, over half of the bottled water sold in the marketplace is repackaged and resold from municipal tap systems. In this article, we aim to demystify spring water, it’s health benefits, and how it compares to other types of drinking water.
What is Spring Water?
First, let’s clarify some of the verbiage used when talking about spring water as the marketing lingo is confusing. Spring water is also commonly referred to as raw water, well water, and artesian water, although there are some differences. The EPA defines spring water as being any water that originates from an underground aquifer and is collected as it flows naturally to the earth’s surface or via a borehole that taps into the underground source.
The organic filtration process of spring water (from safe and reliable sources) offers a very rich mineral profile – more than any other type of water – but this should not be confused with brands marketing their products with “glacier water” or “mountain water,” for example. These labels are not regulated, and the same goes for “purified water,” which may still contain potentially harmful chemicals and microbes. Think of these marketing terms and labels as you would for the natural food industry. For example, the “natural” label on a food package doesn’t hold the same weight as the organic label. “Natural” foods are often laden with pesticides, genetically engineered ingredients, and high fructose corn syrup.
While spring water, well water, artesian water, and raw water have some differences in the way that they are sourced, they all provide more essential nutrients and minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium.
There is a lot of fascinating information here about the different types of springs, how they flow and where they are located. The primary takeaway is that minerals dissolve in the spring water as it flows through underground rocks, leaving us with pure, alkaline, and health-promoting H2O that is free of synthetic toxins.
What Minerals Are In Water?
The typical minerals found in water are magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium, along with some trace amounts of iron and zinc. All minerals in water are in their ionic form, meaning they are more easily absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract than minerals in foods and supplements. For this reason, combined with the reality of modern-day depletion of minerals in our soil, the intake of mineral-rich water becomes even more important to our health. While all water in its original form contains the minerals discussed below, these same minerals sometimes come packaged with chemicals and other toxins. As you can imagine, spring water in its purest form contains the highest mineral content of any type of water.
Does Spring Water Have Beneficial Minerals?
Spring water tends to be highest in the minerals potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium, depending on the source. The World Health Organization states that the prevalence of heart disease and osteoporosis could be reduced with consumption of magnesium and calcium-rich water, and many reputable spring water manufacturers offer products that are low in sodium or sodium-free, to avoid the potential complication of hypertension in sensitive populations.
Chemical farming and modern-day industrialized agriculture is wreaking havoc on the mineral content of our soil, and therefore, the foods we eat. Studies show a dramatic decline in key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in both soil and produce, which is largely a result of chemical-based agriculture and over-farming. This is yet another reason that the mineral content of your water should be considered a top priority when it comes to your diet. We’ll talk about the importance of each of these minerals in a moment, but first, let’s compare spring water’s mineral content to that of most municipal tap water.
What Minerals Are In Tap Water?
Mineral levels vary among tap water sources and research shows that European tap water tends to contain higher mineral content than tap water in the United States. Depending on where you live, tap water in the US comes primarily from three sources - lakes, rivers, and groundwater.
Like spring water, surface water or groundwater is also highest in magnesium, calcium and sodium. However, these minerals are sometimes stripped during the treatment process, particularly with magnesium and calcium during the precipitation phase of water treatment. Minerals that remain in treated tap water can form deposits that corrode pipes or restrict flow, which is one reason that water from your faucet tends to be lower in mineral content than spring water.
It’s also worth noting that contaminants in tap water can contribute to health conditions that reduce immune function and stress the body, which (regardless of the source of stress) more rapidly uses mineral stores, especially magnesium. While tap water is relatively safe for most people, common contaminants after treatment include arsenic, aluminum, copper, iron, lead, pesticides, herbicides, uranium, and trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs.
It’s a good idea to check your local water supply, as every tap water source has a unique combination of contaminants. You can do this by visiting the Environmental Working Group's Tap Water Database and entering your zip code.
What Is The Mineral Content Of Spring Water?
The mineral content in spring water varies, but studies show that its higher mineral content can help us meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) of certain nutrients like magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium, particularly in cases where nutrient requirements are not being met with a healthy diet.
Magnesium supports hundreds of biochemical processes including the production of cellular energy or ATP. This important mineral is also one of the most common deficiencies in people due to improper diet and insufficient stomach acid production, which is needed to absorb magnesium. Studies show that magnesium deficiency can lead to increased production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Magnesium also helps the body produce the calming neurotransmitter, GABA, which helps to relieve stress and anxiety.
The magnesium content of water varies, ranging between just 1 milligram per liter (mg/l) to 120 mg/l, depending on the source. A reliable spring water source is more likely to fall on the top end of that range, meaning that an adult female could obtain almost 40% of the RDI of magnesium from water alone, and an adult male closer to 30%. These percentages are not standard, as the amount of magnesium and every individual’s nutrient requirements are unique to their build, but it offers valuable insight and the potential to replenish key nutrient deficiencies by drinking water.
Other excellent sources include dark leafy green vegetables, avocados, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and dark chocolate. Epsom salt baths are another highly effective way to absorb magnesium and can promote sleep, another foundation of health alongside hydration.
Along with sodium, magnesium, and potassium, calcium is another important electrolyte in the body. We typically think of calcium as being important for bones, but a small amount of calcium lives in the blood and is very tightly regulated in order to contract muscles, maintain the rhythm of the heart, and clot blood.
Studies show that most adults living the US don’t get enough calcium in their diet, with the RDI being between 1,000 and 1,200 mg, depending on your age and other factors. A fascinating 2017 study found that the body better absorbs calcium from mineral spring water than it does from milk or supplements, concluding that spring water is a calorie-free source of more bioavailable calcium that can improve the body’s calcium supply.
Potassium is critical for maintaining healthy blood pressure, heart health, bone health, and muscle function. Although sodium helps the body hold on to potassium, many people are already potassium deficient. The estimate for the optimal amount of daily potassium intake for adults is about 4.7 grams, however, less than 3% of Americans hit this target. High potassium foods that everyone can use to supplement include bananas and potatoes.
Sodium is an essential mineral that acts as an electrolyte along with chloride to maintain water balance in the body. You can think of salt as what helps you hold on to the water you drink. Unfortunately, sodium is still misunderstood and continues to get a bad rap in the mainstream medical and nutrition world. We continue to hear that restricting salt is necessary for health. The reality is that when you dive into the science you learn that a low salt diet has a higher correlation with mortality than someone who salts their food to taste – and that processed and packaged foods are truly the culprits of a diet dangerously high in sodium. Much of the sodium in the American diet comes from consuming highly processed foods because salt is used as a preservative.
Some companies packaging spring water offer low or no-sodium options for those with pre-existing medical conditions or any reason to follow a low sodium diet. Interestingly, studies show that the calcium and magnesium present in spring water are protective against heart disease and decrease blood pressure, which some experts claim can outweigh the potential harm of the sodium content.
Is Alkaline Water Good For You?
Alkaline diets and alkaline water have become all the rage these days, and there’s some good science behind why. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is sky-high in acidic foods like refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, chemical additives, and highly processed foods. For this reason, consider the food and water you consume as a catalyst to support a more alkaline state which is critical for your health.
The body’s pH balance plays an important role in your health. On a pH scale of 0-14, zero is completely acidic, and 14 is completely alkaline. 7-8 is a neutral body pH. Alkaline water is exactly what it sounds like: water with a higher - that is more alkaline, pH level. Alkaline water is usually around eight or nine on the pH scale, compared to tap water that is closer to seven or less. Water with more alkalinity works as an antioxidant, meaning it has the ability to fight off excessive free radicals in the body, which are essentially unstable atoms linked to oxidative stress, accelerated aging and a host of diseases, like cancer.
It’s important to note a major difference between spring water’s naturally more alkaline state and products being marketed as “alkaline water” which have gone through a chemical process called electrolysis. As we talked about earlier, spring water passes over rocks and naturally attracts alkalizing minerals. On the flip side, chemically alkalized water has its pH raised by an ionizer, which uses electricity to separate alkaline and acidic molecules.
Many integrative medical doctors and other experts caution that chemically alkalized water can actually throw off your body’s delicate pH balance, potentially causing symptoms like nausea and vomiting. It can also deactivate the enzyme pepsin and lower the efficacy of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), both essential for the breakdown and digestion of proteins which play an important role in killing pathogens and harmful bacteria in the stomach.
The Verdict: Reap the benefits of naturally alkaline spring water instead of opting for chemically alkalized water.
What Cities Have Natural Spring Water?
Believe it or not, a handful of cities around the world obtain their municipal water supply directly from natural springs.
Vienna’s water comes directly from the mountain springs of the Styrian/Lower Austrian Alps, and reaches the city about 36 hours later. The water is not pumped and it undergoes strict regulations, and on its way passes through hydroelectric power stations, generating enough power for a small town. 97% of the water supplied to inhabitants of Vienna is Alpine spring water, the remaining 3% coming from surface water and groundwater.
In central Oregon, the towns of Madras, Culver, and Metolius enjoy untreated spring water directly from their tap. In fact, a California “raw water” company Live Water buys central Oregon’s spring water and sells it for $8.60 per gallon – the demand for their product is high in urban areas that lack access to pristine spring water. The water coming from Opal Springs in these Oregon municipalities have excellent mineral reports and have consistently passed federal and state drinking water tests.
The small town of Springwater, located 90 minutes north of Toronto, Canada, is aptly named for its pure and clean municipal spring water. An article in Canadian Geographic explained that:
“ ‘The water contains less lead, by at least a factor of five, than the cleanest ice layers from the Arctic,’... — an amazing comparison, because those Arctic samples are from 5,000 to 8,000 years ago, long before the onset of atmospheric lead pollution.”
You can rest assured that spring water is not a fad. It has been studied and recognized as not only safe, but it has been celebrated for its rich mineral profile for generations. This “green knowledge” is penetrating more and more private companies who are selling it for a pretty penny.
Understandably, drinking water safety has been of utmost concern recently, especially with water disasters like the crisis in Flint, Michigan. You want to be absolutely certain that the water you and your family consume is not only mineral-rich but free of contaminants, pathogenic bacteria, and dangerous microbes. Below, we’ll discuss whether or not you can source spring water yourself. But you should feel confident that spring water from a trusted source is not only safe, but incredibly healthy. “Trusted” being the keyword. Since spring water is largely untreated, it must be vigilantly tested for parasites, chemicals, and pathogens like E. Coli and Giardia, for example. The true appeal of spring water is that its source is pure, and its filtration process natural. So unless you’re lucky enough to live in Vienna, Springwater or central Oregon, you’ll want to be sure you choose a water delivery company that can be trusted. Sadly, a growing number of spring water on the market has been processed with ultraviolet light and ozone gas for improved shelf life and cheaper transport, which ends up destroying some of the beneficial probiotic bacteria that naturally occurs in spring water, according to Find A Spring.
It’s important to ensure you’re getting high-quality spring water by researching the company you choose to order from. The bottled water industry is intentionally vague in its disclosure of water sourcing locations and how they treat their products. Many larger spring water brands that claim to source their water from a spring (singular), actually collect water from a larger number of springs – which they do not disclose. For example, just 30% of Poland Spring Water comes from Poland Spring. To add insult to injury, many bottled water companies are drilling and depleting aquifers, which devastates habitats and pollutes these natural springs.
A safe source you can consider for spring water delivery is Live Water, they deliver to your door and they offer the water in 2.5-gallon jugs, which is a huge win when you consider the environmental devastation caused by plastic water bottles, not to mention its negative health consequences. Plastics are one of the primary pollutants of the human body and choosing a borosilicate glass water bottle is essential if you are trying to maintain the structure and integrity of your spring water for daily consumption.
Keep in mind that not all spring water sources are created equal. While spring water is required to meet basic EPA purity standards, it faces fewer regulations and guarantees for its final water quality. This makes it even more important to opt for a trusted source, like Live Water or Mountain Valley Spring.
What Do the Critics Say About Spring Water?
It’s always a good idea to hear both sides of the story, and “raw water” has received a lot of bad press as of late.
First and foremost, let’s make a distinction between “raw water” and “spring water.” They refer to the same water (spring water) that has been around since the beginning of time. This is the same water that quenches the thirst of residents in Vienna, Springwater and central Oregon. Spring water is the mineral-rich life force that animals and humans have used to survive for many millennia.
Let’s compare the raw water fad to something like the Paleo diet model, which has also been incredibly trendy. A lot of mainstream media has latched onto this diet and labeled it as irresponsible, unhealthy, and dangerous. Any knowledgeable dietician or nutritionist will tell you that yes - like any diet - it’s important to recognize how the paleo plan is designed and whether or not it’s appropriate for the individual, but it’s undeniable that the way our Paleolithic ancestors ate can be therapeutic and effective in lowering triglycerides and blood sugar, balancing cholesterol, combating metabolic syndrome and more. The diet essentially cuts down on refined sugars and processed foods, which are a relatively new phenomenon in modern diets, and which just about any doctor or health practitioner would agree is unhealthy. The same principle can be applied to spring water, a natural resource that has been characterized as a fad, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The bottom line is: health trends tend to take on a sensationalist persona in the media that goes against the “conventional” way of eating, drinking, or simply being. Highlighting water as raw, hip, and expensive puts an unnecessary burden on a naturally occurring resource that is, unfortunately nowadays, nearly impossible to access, especially for those in populated urban areas.
That being said, there are precautions you should take, like choosing a trusted source and being sure not to confuse pure spring water with potentially harmful or unregulated marketing labels like alkaline, glacier or mountain, for example. You’ll also want to keep in mind that there are powerful interests behind raw water-bashing, and you can probably imagine whose interests are best met with convincing the public that raw spring water is a hoax. Hint: big plastic companies who are selling more than 400 billion plastic bottles annually – that is close to 1 million plastic water bottles per minute, or 20,000 bottles per second.
Collecting Spring Water
Since spring water is a natural resource, the next logical question is whether or not you can safely source and collect it yourself. Perhaps you’re planning a hiking trip, want to take a family outing in the woods, or you just want your emergency preparedness kit in tip-top shape. The short answer is yes you can source it yourself, but you must do it carefully from uncontaminated grounds.
Use this online resource to locate a nearby spring for collection. Here, you can find springs in your area, and even report new springs you might find when you’re out and about. This incredible resource regularly updates information about water quality, accessibility, and whether a spring is dry or not. When you venture out to a spring, bring your borosilicate glass water bottles or even glass gallon jugs to collect your water. There is no legal limit to how much spring water you can collect, but consider harvesting around five gallons.
Access to mineral-rich water is the most basic of human rights, and spring water has been a pure source of drinking water for millions of years. Since this natural resource can be collected for free, big industries that stand to lose major profits from the public opting for spring water have gone to great lengths to steer us in the direction of bottled water, instead.
Important takeaways about spring water:
- High-quality spring water is rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and other trace minerals. It is naturally more alkaline than tap water, which can create an environment in the human body less vulnerable to disease proliferation.
- Spring water is free of harmful compounds and chemicals common in many municipal tap water supplies such as aluminum, arsenic, copper, iron, lead, pesticides, herbicides, uranium, pharmaceuticals, chlorine and fluoride. But it must be sourced carefully from uncontaminated grounds.
- Be careful not to confuse spring water with other marketing labels that are less regulated like glacier water and mountain water. Along those same lines, keep in mind that a large percentage of bottled water is actually tap water, and the bottled water industry often does not disclose where their water is sourced or how it’s treated.
- Even though raw spring water is older than our species, mainstream media has latched onto the term “raw water” and labeled it as a fad. This misconception is not only ironic but leads consumers away from the purest and most mineral-dense form of water.
- It is important to ensure you go with a high-quality brand of spring water, like Live Water or Mountain Valley Spring, or use reliable resources like this one to source your own local spring water. It is equally important to ensure the vessel in which you use to drink your water is inert and sanitary. Borosilicate glass bottles are typically best for water storage and can withstand very extreme temperature changes.
An astute Slovakian proverb eloquently states: “pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.” Choosing drinking water for you and your family is a foundation for health, and it shouldn’t be cloaked in mystery. We hope this article provides perspective on the origins of spring water and the various options you have to source this naturally occurring life force.
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