U.S. Water News Online
BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- More than seventy municipal, bottled, and sparkling waters from around the country and across the globe competed for the honor of best water in their class in the Seventh Annual Toast to the Tap Water Tasting and Competition held here at the end of February.
Water master Arthur von Wiesenberger, noted water expert of Santa Barbara, Calif., guided the judges through the subtle nuances of evaluating a product whose most sought after quality is tastelessness.
The Toast to the Tap is the crown jewel of the Winter Festival of the Waters, produced by Travel Berkeley Springs and held at nearby Coolfont Resort. Berkeley Springs is the home of Berkeley Club Beverages, Inc., which has bottled and distributed Berkeley Springs Mineral Spring Water since 1924.
The annual event invites the public to taste competing waters along with a panel of media judges, including representatives from National Public Radio, Beverage Industry Magazine, the Gazette Papers, Mid-Atlantic Country Magazine, Spa Goer, the Winchester Star, and the Herald Mail.
This year's theme, "Water, water everywhere, but is it fit to drink?" focused on water safety, new regulations and trends, and new directions in bottled water. Issues explored included the impact of the new Safe Drinking Water Act, the health benefits of drinking water, and the safety of bottled water compared to tap water.
According to organizers of the event, bottled water is now the fastest growing segment of the beverage industry, surpassing the soft drink industry. It grossed over $3 billion in 1994.
Competition winners in the municipal category led off with first place winner Dubuque, Iowa, which garnered a score of 453. Desert Hot Springs, Calif., with a score of 443, took second place. Dover Delaware (434) took third place, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (432) took fourth, and Kent, Ohio (427) took fifth.
The non-carbonated bottled water category had two entrants tie for first place -- Sweet Springs Natural Mountain Water of Gap Mills, W. Va., and Mountain Valley Spring Water, of Hot Springs, Ark. Both brands of bottled water scored 458.
Louis Trauth Dairy natural Spring Water, of Amanda, Ohio, placed second, with a score of 455; Premium H2Only Purified Water, in Chicago, Ill., placed third (454); Reichman Spring Water of Kent, Ohio, placed second (453); and Indian Peaks Spring Water of Boulder, Colo., placed fifth.
In the sparkling water category, the scores were even closer. Three entrants tied for third place, with a score of 490: Elan Sparkling Natural Water of Braselton, Ga., Perrier Sparkling Mineral Water of France, and Quibell Sparkling Water of Roanoke, Va.
Calistoga Sparkling Mineral Water of Napa Valley, Calif. took first place (503), and Mountain Valley Spring Water of Hot Springs, Ark. (497) took second.
A few interesting facts about some of these winners: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is the largest purveyor of treated water in the world; Kent, Ohio was number one in 1995; Sweet Springs Natural Mountain Water has been first three times before; Mountain Valley Spring Water has supplied bottled water to the White House since the Cleveland administration; and Quibell Sparkling Water headquarters are in Virginia, but the source of water is Sweet Springs, W.Va.
Also a note about first place municipal winner, Dubuque, Iowa. According to conference coordinators, Dubuque is one of the very few municipal water suppliers which both purifies and softens its water at its treatment plant.
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