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And the Award for Best Water Goes To . . . : All About Tap Taste Tests

One of the first things you notice when you move to a new area is how the water there tastes. This taste-which derives from the water’s source and the properties of the water-may determine whether or not you’re willing to drink from the tap.

Some organizations have turned the taste of tap water into a serious competition. Here are some facts about international and national tap water taste tests.

Not All Awards Mean the Same Thing

Maybe you’ve driven through a town which advertises its water as the “best tasting” in the land. While it usually means someone voted for the taste, this proclamation doesn’t actually mean that town’s water trumps all others.

For one reason, many organizations that hold taste tests-like the American Water Works Association (or AWWA)-hold a new test every year. For another, challenges fall under subsections. In the AWWA test there are sectionals, but only one location wins best of the best. In 2014, that title went to Boston Water and Sewer Commission.

AWWA isn’t the only organization to hold taste tests, so before you congratulate a town on having the best water, look at how they got their ranking. For example, Beaver, UT advertises its tap water as the best in America, but they’ve never won “Best of the Best.” Beaver won the National Rural Water Association’s Great American Taste Test, which is open to more candidates than some other tests.

Requirements Are Strict

Test requirements vary. For some tests the only requirements are samples and an entry fee. To earn grander titles, hopeful cities must meet rigorous standards. Here’s a sampling of some of the most affluent taste tests:

  • AWWA: To qualify for consideration in the “Best of the Best” competition, cities must first win a sectional taste test. At these sectional tests, judges taste multiple samples (kept at room temperature in glass containers) and rate the water on a scale from 1 to 10. Eligible cities must also avoid any state or federal drinking water violations for a year before the competition.
  • Berkley Springs International Water Tasting: While this test accepts entries from around the world, it judges based on more than taste. Judges consider color, aroma, taste, mouth feel, and aftertaste. In 2014, the award for best in the world went to Clearbrook, British Columbia, Canada. Best in the USA went to Santa Ana, California.
  • National Purdex Awards: To receive recognition in this test, communities must abide by water purity and contaminant standards. Purdex testers compare samples using an algorithmic scale. In 2014, two Hawaiian cities, Kaunakakai and Hilo, tied for first with a Purdex score of 933. The second place cities of Carmichael and Grass Valley, California and Portland and Caribou, Maine got scores of 929.

Industry officials consider these three tests to represent the most accurate tap water taste and quality measurements.

They May Affect Property Value

It’s one thing to brag about how good your water tastes, but it’s quite another if it affects the way people work and live in your community. As of yet, no studies show that high-quality water affects property value. However, several studies show that low-quality water and the resulting complications do.

One case study in Charlesbourg, a municipality near Quebec, showed that properties subject to water-related health problems experienced drops in value. These drops ranged from 5.2 to 10.3% of mean sale price.

The taste of tap water varies according to its source and chemical makeup. Municipal waters may change taste or odor due to changes in chemical treatments or additives. But, if your city’s water leaves something to be desired, you don’t have to live with it. To improve the taste of your home’s tap water, invest in a filtration system.

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