It’s clean, refreshing and quenches your thirst, and it doesn’t come out of a bottle. I’m talking about Boston area tap water.
Thirteen-year-old Anthony from Arlington asked this question on our Curiosity Web site: “Why does Massachusetts tap water taste better than other states’ water?”
Hmmm. Does it? David Wade decided to find out because of Anthony’s question.
BOSTON’S TAP PUT TO THE TEST
Working with an organization called Think Outside the Bottle we set up a simple taste test at the Other Side Cafe in Boston. Annie, Tony, Sarah and Tricia all took the test, sampling three bottled waters (Dasani, Poland Spring, Aquafina) and Boston tap water.
We then asked them to try and pick which was which.
“They all tasted identical,” said Tony.
Sarah identified the tap water as Dasani.
Not one of our testers could pick the tap water.
David Wade gave it a try as well, thinking his discerning palate would allow him to ace the test. No dice.
“The one that I thought tasted the best was the Boston water. Go figure,” says Wade.
So the tap water passed the test, pretty easily in fact. But why?
WHY SO TASTY?
To find out we went to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. The MWRA runs the water system for the Boston area.
“The single biggest factor in the quality of water here in the Greater Boston area is the Quabbin Reservoir,” says Fred Laskey, the MWRA’s Executive Director.
More than two million people get their drinking water from the massive Quabbin. The acres upon acres of protected land around the reservoir act as a natural filter. In addition, the reservoir is so big that it holds a 5 year supply of water.
What that means is that water is drained off relatively slowly, so it stays in the reservoir for a long time, which allows sediments to settle and allows the sun’s ultraviolet rays to work on the water to destroy some bacteria.
So our supply starts out being in pretty good shape.
“The water at the source in the reservoir is pristine,” says Laskey.
Then the water flows to a state of the art treatment plant in Marlboro. Over 200 million gallons a day on average come to the Carroll treatment facility where it is treated primarily with ozone.
“It is a very strong oxidant that literally burns or shreds any organic material that is in the water,” says Laskey.
And when it gets to your home it’s one of the cleanest and best tasting tap waters in the country.
“You don’t want to brag, but we have something to be proud of here,” says Laskey.
“Public water systems are crucial resources in this country, crucial for public health,” says Rob Kerth from the Think Outside The Bottle Campaign, the organization that set up our taste test.
STOP BUYING BOTTLED?
He says bottled water companies are trying to convince us that public water supplies are not as good as bottled water.
Kerth worries that communities will not support public supplies if that message catches on.
“We can’t lose the political will to maintain those by becoming convinced that they’re not for drinking,” says Kerth. “We don’t need to be wasting our money on bottled water,” he adds.
If some bottled waters taste like tap water, that’s because they are tap water.
Dasani and Aquafina are reprocessed water, right from a faucet.
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