A Toast To California Water

It's not California's wine country that has some taste testers raving. It's the tap water in Southern California.

The district serving Los Angeles and surrounding areas ranked first among 42 water samples from 18 states evaluated this weekend to win the municipal division at the "Toast to the Tap: International Water Tasting and Competition."

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which finished fourth last year, edged first-time entry Montpelier, Ohio. It was followed by Huntington Station, N.Y., Dover, Del., and Kent, Ohio, which also was fifth last year.

"Instead of breaking out the champagne bottle we'll be cracking out a glass and opening the tap," Roy Wolfe, associate director of water quality at MWD, said in a telephone interview Sunday. "But we're not going to rest on our laurels. We have other programs in place to improve water quality."

Wolfe said the news was welcomed on the heels of a recent state study that suggested a link between drinking chlorinated tap water and miscarriages in the first trimester.

"We knew we had pretty good water," Wolfe said. "This is an opportunity to show the public what we've known, that it's certainly safe to drink and pleasing to taste, and done at a very low cost."

Wolfe said an 8-ounce glass of tap water costs the consumer about a thousandth of a cent.

The water that won the contest came out of the Joseph Jensen Filtration Plant in the Granada Hills area of Los Angeles. That supply came from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta in Northern California, Wolfe said.

The plant, which treats 400 million gallons per day, serves about 1 million people in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

In the noncarbonated water category, McKenzie Mist of Blue River, Ore., finished first in a field of 37.

Oaza Tesanj, a product from Bosnia-Herzegovina that was sent to Berkeley Springs by a Red Cross volunteer who knew of the competition, won first place out of 10 entries in the sparkling water category.

The water-tasting contest at the Coolfont Resort is similar to wine-tasting. Judges examine, sniff and taste samples that are rated on appearance, odor, flavor, mouth feel and aftertaste.

But it is the water without taste or smell that wins bragging rights.

The competition is the main event of Berkeley Springs' 10-week Festival of the Waters. The setting for the annual contest is the resort town founded by George Washington, his friends and family in 1776 as one of the country's first spas.

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