Who’s got the best tap water?
September 14, 2010
KEYSTONE – The water arrived atop a cart loaded with old-fashioned looking brown, green and clear bottles, and there was no telling where each came from. Labeled only with letters, we judges had to try 13 different varieties of water, evaluating them on a scale of 1 (“I can’t stand this water and could never drink it”) to 10 (“This is the best water I’ve ever tasted”).
This wasn’t a competition between high-end bottled waters or exotic H20 from faraway lands but, rather, an evaluation of tap water from Colorado and Wyoming municipalities. The occasion was a gathering at Keystone of water professionals as part of the joint conference of the American Water Works Association – Rocky Mountain Section and the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association. That works out to a lot of acronyms, but the bottom line was water and how to treat it for human consumption. As one of the judges in the “Best of the Rocky Mountains” water taste test Tuesday morning, I was charged with evaluating 13 water samples from different municipalities in a blind taste test with three other judges.
When the results were finally tallied, the winner was Denver Water – although what turned out to be my favorite from the Town of Silverthorne was just a point or two behind for second place. In third was the City of Aurora.
We were given “reference water” (from the taps at the Keystone Conference Center) to cleanse our palates in between tastes, and then we got down to it. As it turned out, judging water is remarkably simple and intuitive, requiring none of the expertise of evaluating something like wine or chili (which I’ve also judged in the past). For water, what we mostly are looking for is a very neutral taste, and any of the waters that had the slightest chlorine or chemical taste quickly got low marks from me and the other judges. When I came across sample “C,” however, I figured I was close to a winner. The water was clean, crisp and devoid of any kind of unidentifiable smell or taste – yet it had a pleasant flavor and “finish” that ultimately yielded it a “10” on my scorecard. That it turned out to be from Silverthorne didn’t surprise me, since I lived in that town for many years and always loved the tap water.
“We spend a lot of time on it,” said Town of Silverthorne water supervisor Chris Shelden of the water’s taste. “It’s all about keeping a minimal amount of treatment while still staying within the state and EPA guidelines for water quality.”
In first place was Denver Water, which one can justifiably point to as our water in the first place as a headwater county. The same goes for Aurora, the third-place finisher. If any other Summit County water providers competed, I wasn’t aware of it since none of them placed in the top six (rounded out by Broomfield, Centennial and Fort Morgan).
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“Denver Water’s mission is to provide our customers with high-quality water and excellent service,” said Ken Pollock, superintendent of water treatment for Denver Water. “The water utility members of the Rocky Mountain section of the AWWA bring strong competition each year. Our win reflects the dedication and commitment that Denver Water employees have to high-quality water.”
As judge Matt Renoux said afterward, all the samples we tried were “fantastic,” and we’re lucky to have such great water to choose from in our state.
It’s enough to make one wonder why we ever spend money buying water in plastic bottles.
Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 668-4618.