I am curious what this is. Please do keep us abreast of anything you find out.
Yes, I do agree the damaged plants are oddly misplaced, often between completely healthy basil.
It looks as if something is coming along and just sucking out everything it can, but the strange thing is the plants are usually pretty moist and the aroma is pretty strong. I chewed on a leaf and it has a verrrrry strong basil flavor with some mild bitterness.
I've checked for insects, and while I do get the occasional pest every now and then, it's nothing compared to what's causing this damage.
I've taken a lens up and down and to the roots as well and no sight of anything obvious.
This is not a new issue. I have seen this multiple times with different plants; seedlings, clones and mature plants alike.
The only thing they all have in common is the water, but im just not sure what it is about the water. And this time it's affecting a bit more than usual and I really want to save them if at all possible! Or at least avoid this problem in the future if I can.