By Blake Herzog
Vickie Johnston refers to herself as a “mad scientist,” but not in the typical sense.
She’s been concerned about health and angry about the contaminants present in drinking water, and elsewhere in the environment, since she was 16 years old, working as an assistant in a hospital laboratory, ironically not far from Flint, Michigan.
She found traces of formaldehyde — the primary ingredient in embalming fluid — in samples of human blood. This got her asking questions, such as “How is embalming fluid getting into a living person’s blood? Did they drink it? Is there a new drug that might explain this?
“We later found DDT in newborn babies’ blood 20 years after it was outlawed. How was this possible?
“And, of course,” Johnston says, “we discovered it was in the drinking water. The embalming fluid was leaching into the groundwater. We discovered a whole host of toxic chemicals in water that were affecting human and animal health.”
She adds: “Remember when the bees were mysteriously dying? Big Ag was dumping billions of pounds of pesticides on American farmland, and continues to do so; and yes, it got into the groundwater we drink.
“There are numerous studies showing what these chemicals have done not only to the environment, but to human health. Many of these toxic chemicals affect and harm children’s brains and nervous systems. Formula for newborn babies is made with water!
“For years no one put two and two together until finally the same poisons in our water started showing up in our food. This stems from the same problem, as our crops are watered with tainted water.”
Ever since learning of the effects of tainted water, Johnston says she has been motivated to understand how the human body works, how it reacts to toxic chemicals in the environment, and how it falls victim to diseases that shorten lives and speeds up aging.
Her passion and drive propelled her company H2O Health Water and Health Solutions toward success in making and selling water filtration systems locally and nationwide through licensed dealers.
‘Buy a Filter or be a Filter’
Johnston spreads the message by educating and teaching classes at her Prescott Gateway Mall store, speaking at health conferences, hosting Zoom calls, and writing columns in Prescott Healthy Living magazine.
She hosts a call-in radio show, The KYCA PM SHOW, at 4:05 p.m. Thursdays on KYCA (103.5 FM and 1490 AM) that focuses on various aspects of wellness through conversations with doctors, scientists, health educators, nonprofits and other professional educators on topics that affect our health and well-being.
“More things affect our health than we realize,” she says.
Johnston served on the City of Prescott Mayor’s Commission on Well-Being at the request of former Councilmember Billie Orr. She is a member and has been an ambassador for the Prescott Chamber of Commerce and has been a member of the Prescott Sunrise Lions Club.
Johnston attended two private colleges and graduated in 1977. She has been involved in health care-related occupations throughout her life, including jobs in U.S. hospitals where she worked in laboratories and witnessed early deaths, miscarriages, birth defects and other avoidable tragedies.
“My heart breaks for children, and it bothers me to see our health declining at a rapid rate in the USA. I’ve watched cancer, heart disease, birth defects, diabetes and many other diseases and disorders over the years become more common, and now they are increasing at an alarming rate,” she says.
“This is a disaster in my mind. I’ve always thought it was because of toxic chemicals found in our drinking water.”
She continues, “Today we know this is true, as studies continue to show how toxic chemicals are linked to many diseases and disorders. Chemicals such as chlorine are found in our drinking and water we bathe in. The bottled water industry has skyrocketed because people think it’s somehow better, yet most is worse because the pH (potential hydrogen) is lower.”
Johnston also worked in research and development for ergonomic products with two companies, giving scores of presentations on how to these products to top employers in Arizona and throughout the country. She worked as a consultant with multiple hospitals, city municipalities and over 200 major corporations like General Motors, Honeywell, Motorola, Dial Corp, Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, and Lockheed Martin.
Johnston and her remodeling contractor husband Larry moved from Scottsdale to Prescott in 2003 intending to retire. However, life took them in a different direction as she became active in the green living movement in 2000, embracing organic food and the human body’s natural ability to heal itself when given what it needs to build healthy cells and avoiding many things that cause our bodies excess stress.
Avoiding toxins also plays a big role. Johnston studied numerous countries around the world to learn about natural healing remedies and was the original creator of the Scottsdale-based magazine Green Living, promoting healthy living and environmentally conscious products.
Johnston has spoken to cancer patients during recovery about healthier living at health conferences in the U.S. and Canada. In 2010, she says she launched the business that became H2O Health Water and Wellness Solutions after not being able to find a water filtration system that would do what she wanted for her home and family.
“Most water filtration systems are antiquated and built with media that are inferior for the toxic giants in our water today,” Johnston says. “I wanted to create a water filtration system that not only cleaned the water, but also improved health by getting rid of pollutants and toxins.”
Oxygen is crucial for the body’s metabolism, respiration and cellular oxygenation, while hydrogen allows toxins and waste to be transported throughout the body. Both are present in all bodily fluids.
Today H2O Health Water and Health Solutions has a spacious store that Johnston, her husband and her “amazing” staff have made into something more than just a place to buy water, filtration systems, sample clean water and learn what’s in your water. A visit to the store can be an education. She and guest speakers teach free classes most Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon on multiple health-related topics.
The store itself provides whole-home and countertop purification systems, alkaline and hydrogen generators, nutritional supplements, teas, essential oils, soaps, healthy cookware, air filters, biofeedback scans and books. The store also has an online component.
The water purification systems, manufactured at a facility in Phoenix, are the heart of the business.
Johnston says their goal is to clean up the water as much as possible at a price that people can afford while maintaining the minerals and integrity of the water:
“The ‘secret sauce’ took years to develop, but we’ve worked with enough really great people with the same goal in mind over the years — to provide filtered water that is not simply clean but is also able to provide the health benefits of proper hydration.”
Johnston says H2O Health builds systems that remove many contaminants found in both tap and well water, including many found under the legal limit allowed by EPA regulations.
“I’m not OK with drinking toxic chemicals at any level,” she says. “I don’t want to see anyone drinking toxic chemicals when it can be avoided.”
Filtering through philanthropy
As a mother of five with 19 grandkids, Johnston is invested in the future and is concerned about what health and life will look like years from now. She says she wants to continue to prove how water filtration benefits our health, especially that of children, because she has seen a difference with her grandchildren who have grown up drinking clean water.
“I’m concerned about the most vulnerable when it comes to health, the young and old. We’ve recently started donating systems to locations where there are children, so teachers and parents can see firsthand the positive behavioral and learning improvement,” she says.
Johnston is in the process of setting up a nonprofit to be called New Water Sciences to fund this research and to make donations of clean water systems — including free installation — at schools, medical and nursing facilities for veterans, dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, and low-income senior citizens.
“Water has an innate intelligence that few understand,” Johnston says. “I have no doubt the proof will be in this pudding!”
She has already donated filtration systems at two local shelters, Agape House and Prescott Area Shelter Services (PASS).
Agape House provides transitional housing, life skills training and other services to homeless families as they re-establish themselves in the community. Eighty-six percent of the families are living independently 12 months after leaving the program.
Becky Mitchell, administrative director of Agape House, says, “When our families first come to Agape House, those basic needs have been missed. A safe place to stay, food, clean water — these are essential to the first steps of change and rebuilding.”
The filtration system at Agape House was installed in the community room, she says, so that all nine families staying in its temporary shelter can drink it, saving money they might otherwise spend on bottled water or filtration.
The clean-tasting water also encourages family members, especially children, to drink more water. Mitchell adds: “Kids sometimes want sodas or sports drinks or other stuff, and that’s just so unhealthy. With the smoothness of this water our kids will drink cupful after cupful and come back for more. So, we’re very grateful for that healthy decision, and you want kids to come back for more.”
PASS maintains emergency and transitional housing for adults and children and programs to set them up for greater success in finding permanent housing and employment. It touts an 81% transition rate.
Julie Brown Pflueger, PASS director of marketing, calls Johnston “a community inspiration,” and says she has been supporting the shelter since at least 2020, when she invited Pflueger onto her radio show during the pandemic to give updates on events and programs when there were few fundraising outlets available.
The PASS appearances continued on the show, and Johnston offered to donate a system during one of them, Pflueger says. “Our old pipes, hot water heater and our guests at the shelter, all are grateful for this amazing gift,” Pflueger says.
She also applauds Johnston’s efforts to support the local Senior Referral Network and contribute to other causes in the area, saying, “Vickie and her team at H2O Health support so many different community organizations, but the biggest treasure is her time and spitfire personality that encourages everyone to give back.”
Two Chino Valley schools will be the next recipients to receive free water filtration systems, scheduled to be installed by the end of 2023. Mingus Springs Charter School teaches grades K-8 and is the town’s largest charter school.
Life Prep Academy is a private Christian school with students in grades K-3. Wanda Curtis is its principal, has attended some of Johnston’s classes, and has an H2O Health system at her house.
“They’re so generous and caring about the community, and we’re just so thankful to be getting this system,” she says.
Friends all over town
Johnston says she is thankful to her many friends and customers in the community who have worked with her on charitable projects, making this possible. At Christmas they make large Christmas bags and socks to hand out to the local shelters and the homeless on local streets.
Mike Eastwood, CEO of West USA Realty of Prescott, also has had airtime on Johnston’s radio show to bring awareness to his nonprofit Pony 4 Precious. He says Vickie bought 500 books for the Mall-o-Ween event for Halloween in the Prescott Gateway Mall in October 2022 and helped him raise money for scholarships for his charity.
“She has helped multiple nonprofits in our area, and she is very gracious,” Eastwood says. “Our community is blessed to have someone with such passion, so much experience and knowledge when it comes to our water.”
He also is an H2O Health customer, having purchased a system for his ranch two years ago. He says it has made a huge difference for his family, his landscaping and especially for his horses and other pets.
The other Prescott area nonprofits Johnston and H2O Health contribute to include Festival of Trees, Granite Creek Cleanup, Habitat for Humanity, Kind Defined, Prescott Meals on Wheels, Prescott Valley Outdoor Summit, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center, Tennies for Tots, Make 100 Healthy and others.
John Murphy of Make 100 Healthy is another collaborator/customer of Johnston’s and applauds her contributions to the community.
“Her generosity was underscored by her donating a full house filtration system to our efforts to grow the Prescott Food Forest to teach people how to grow food. Vickie knows that good health starts with proper hydration,” he says.
“When I was asked to chair the Commission on Well-Being, I knew I had to have Vickie on the commission to share her insights and passion for healthy living. Vickie had built an incredible business by caring for her customers and educating our community on the health benefits of eating clean, natural food and by eliminating toxins and chlorine in our water,” he adds.
Johnston says H2O Health’s newest water filtration system operates using water pressure rather than electricity and has zero wastewater, and no salts or chemicals are used in their process. These systems do not recirculate chemicals back into the ground or city water systems.
“We will never get ahead of the toxins in water if we just keep washing them all back down the drain over and over,” she says.
These huge benefits have caught the attention of those looking for methods to deliver uncontaminated water to people in developing countries, where there’s not a lack of water but a lack of water fit to drink.
“That’s what really concerns me for water worldwide, if we don’t stop polluting the water,” she says.
Johnston spoke at a worldwide conference in San Diego in 2018 for doctors and scientists. She gained the attention of several of the doctors and scientists who attended. She is currently working with a Florida company to help develop and raise funds for water systems for two countries in desperate need of clean drinkable water.
“Doctors are now starting to learn that water is a key — a very big key — for helping people with their health,” she says. “It’s pivotal, more than anyone wanted to admit, it couldn’t be that simple to just drink the right amount of clean water daily to maintain health, after all we are approximately 70% water — or could it?”
At 67, Johnston is nowhere near retirement, as she finds doors are opening worldwide to share this powerful information and to really make a difference in cleaning up our water supply, just as she envisioned over 20 years ago. She continues to raise awareness about contaminants in water and her dealer network is poised to grow significantly.
Of her husband, nearly 80, Johnston says: “He’s my poster child. He has no ills, no pills, all original parts, and everything works and still works every day, myself as well. We’re both just really healthy due to drinking clean water and lifestyle.”
It’s more than just youthful energy that keeps them going, she insists: “It’s the water! Clean water makes all the difference!”
In the end, she says, “My mission is to enlighten and educate people and get our vital water resources cleaned up before it’s too late, and I will speak anywhere where people want to be enlightened. Education is key and information can make tremendous changes in our health.
“I’ve spoken to thousands all over the world about water. We need stricter laws to be passed to reserve and preserve and start really protecting our vital drinking water supplies. Without it, none of us will be here. The word is getting out, it’s just taken a little time — and nobody approaches it quite like I do.”