As opposed to artificial water?

asarasi organic water
Credit: Courtesy of Asarasi, Inc. / Hartford Courant Newspaper

Let’s get this out of the way up top: “Organic water” probably shouldn’t exist. We're not being snarky, it's more of a definition thing. That’s not to say that you can’t have pesticide-free water. Most people would prefer that, actually. But “organic” means that something was derived from living organisms. Water, in its minimalist two-hydrogen-atoms/one-oxygen-atom glory, has no carbon molecules and is therefore technically “inorganic.” In fact, as NPR points out, the USDA specifically excludes water as an ingredient that can be included when making organic claims (instead, describing it as “natural”). And yet, according to Food Navigator USA, not only does “USDA organic certified water” now exist, a recent survey suggests that “almost a quarter of Americans” want to get their hands on it.

A sparkling water brand called Asarasi has become the first pure water to earn USDA organic certification thanks to what Grub Street describes as a “loophole.” The company says its products are “naturally filtered water [that is] harmlessly extracted from living Maple trees.” Though company CEO Adam North Lazar doesn’t specifically explain to Food Navigator how Asarasi secured its certification, this distinction that it comes from trees (pretty organic) would appear to be the reason.

However, possibly even more remarkable than Asarasi’s ability to claim USDA organic certification is that Food Navigator cites a survey from market research giant Mintel saying that about 25 percent of Americans are excited at the prospect of getting their hands on “organic water” – a product that, before Asarasi, didn’t even exist. And one that is still of debatable merits today. (For example, in 2013, Australia banned the idea of “organic water” altogether.) And yet, Lazar said he plans to take his organic certification to the bank: Not just selling it at retail, but also offering it up to producers of other products who want to use organic water to make their products completely 100 percent organic (despite the fact that water is excluded from this distinction anyway).

This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with Asarasi. As Lazar explains, his water is actually a byproduct of producing maple syrup. He’s benefiting the maple business by commoditizing something that otherwise would have little to no value. But though Lazar might have an ingenious business plan, whether the general public has truly wrapped its head around the implications of “organic water” is certainly debatable. But then again, in a world where the word “literally” has had its definition tweaked to include being “used for emphasis while not being literally true,” we guess it’s plausible that a technically inorganic object can be “organic.”