Taste for Tap Water Runs Deep

Published on November 28, 2023

WaterTasteTest_EarthDay

The last of the Water Taste Test challenges have dried up and the results are pouring in. Water we waiting for? Let's dive right in.

The first event was held March 31 at the Municipal Building. The audience of 50 participants was mostly County Employees and their palettes were quite refined.  48% correctly identified our tap water while 28% were sure that the Evian sample was indeed ours. The remaining 24% felt confident, though incorrectly, that the Smartwater was our tap water.

Well, the next challenge event occurred at PEEC's Earth Day Festival. A blustery morning blew in nearly 200 votes to the Los Alamos Nature Center grounds. Taste buds were the most successful at this tasting, with a record 51% of tasters correctly identifying Los Alamos tap water. The remaining results can be found in the table below.

The pinnacle of enthusiasm for our Water Taste Test was at the 4th Grade Water Festival in mid-May. We were only able to attend one of the two days of activity, but Gas, Water, & Sewer crew member Ricardo Lambert really pulled the kids in and made the experience fun – even when their guesses were incorrect. Nearly half of the 116 kids surveyed were able to correctly taste the tap. All that in-school hydration must be helping.

Bottled water comes from a variety of sources, including springs, wells, surface waters and municipal water taps. When bottled, the water is often filtered or enhanced in some way. Some companies change mineral content by filtering out all minerals before adding other minerals or electrolytes back in.

Evian, per their website, is sourced from Cachat Spring, a "high quality natural spring water straight from the French Alps." According to the Smartwater website, "Most facilities that purify and bottle Smartwater procure water from municipal water systems. At a few plants, however, water is obtained from protected groundwater sources managed by the bottling plant, with approvals from local authorities. Smartwater undergoes a vapor distillation and filtration process after which minerals and electrolytes are added.

DPU's biggest battle of the bottles took place during Discovery Day, as part of ScienceFest. A record 366 votes were cast with only 40% of participants correctly tapping into their taste buds. (Keep in mind that a large number of visitors came to ScienceFest and their palettes may not have much, if any, experience with our tap water.) Evian nearly out-tasted our tap, securing 36% of the votes. Alas, Smartwater still only took 24% of the cups.

The heat of July meant we headed to the Farmers Market to cool off shoppers with our fifth water taste testing. The water flights were popular with the 98 tasters, and Evian nearly paralleled our tap water with a vote count of 39% to 40%, respectively.

The last of the water taste tests took place at each of the senior centers in the county. Between the two lunch programs at the White Rock Senior Center and the Betty Ehart Senior Center, 14 brave souls tested their taste buds to try and I.D. our tap water with a 50% success rate.

A round-up of all event determinations:

 

Muni Day

Earth Day

Water Festival

ScienceFest

Farmers Market

Senior Centers

Totals

Votes

Tap

48%

51%

48%

40%

40%

50%

373

Evian

28%

27%

37%

36%

39%

21%

280

Smartwater

24%

22%

15%

24%

21%

29%

186

Total Votes

50

195

116

366

98

14

839

 

So wet in the world was the purpose of this test? Impact. It is environmentally conscientious to drink water from the tap and DPU provides excellent, affordable drinking water. According to EarthDay.org, Americans purchase about 50 billion single-use water bottles per year, or 13 bottles per month for every person in the country. Less than 10% of plastic is not recycled and plastic doesn’t decompose, so plastic waste matters.

Los Alamos County’s tap water comes from the Rio Grande Basin, where it is pulled from the western side of the Española sub-basin which is primarily made up of unconfined sediment aquifers. DPU’s water production wells range in depth from 1,519 feet to 3,092 feet below the surface. The water is not filtered but is processed for disinfection by adding chlorine. DPU does not add fluoride as it already occurs naturally in the water that is pumped here.

Furthermore, as a community-owned utility, DPU staff and management care about affordability. DPU’s water costs $0.007 per gallon. By comparison, eight different bottled water brands purchased locally cost between $2.51 per gallon and $14.66 per gallon.