TEMPLE TERRACE — Health and fitness buff Perry Jacobsen works out almost daily and carefully monitors what he eats.
But he never gives much thought to the water he drinks.
The reason, Jacobsen said, is because he lives, works and spends most of his free time in Temple Terrace, a city he has always known to have drinking water that's safe and satisfying.
"I drink it out of the tap all the time," he said. "It tastes great and I never have to worry about the quality."
So it came as little surprise to Jacobsen when he learned that a panel of five judges in the "Best Tasting Drinking Water" contest declared Temple Terrace's wet stuff as tops in taste. Thirteen other Tampa Bay area water utilities participated in the Feb. 24 regional event, sponsored by the Florida chapter of the American Water Works Association.
In the annual blind taste test held in Dunedin, Temple Terrace beat out the samplings from water utilities in St. Petersburg, Zephyrhills, Tarpon Springs, Lakeland and others within the seven-county region.
It was the city's first win.
"Interestingly, when I bought my first house in Temple Terrace in 1971 the Realtor said, 'You've got to taste this water,' '' Mayor Joe Affronti recalled. "I guess the best way to describe it is that there is no real taste. Our water is really pure and it's really good."
The sentiment is not unanimous, however. Longtime Temple Terrace resident Anita Long said the city's water has always been a "source of contention" between her and her husband, David.
He likes it and drinks it from the tap. She prefers bottled water, contending that Temple Terrace's tap leaves a hint of a chlorine on her palate.
"I'm trying to wean myself off bottled, water but my problem is that I came from Colorado where our water came from mountain runoff and it was really good," she said.
Anne Green, a transplant from Brooklyn, N.Y., more than a decade ago, still prefers her hometown's water to what comes out of the spigots in her Temple Terrace home, but she has no complaints about the overall taste of the water here.
"I keep bottled water in the house because so many people won't drink tap water, but there is controversy over the quality of that," she said. "So why drink bottled water when we have good tasting water right here?"
Temple Terrace uses groundwater tapped from about 10 wells in the upper Floridan Aquifer. Minerals obtained in that manner provide a tasty, natural flavor, said Mike Darrow, a deputy public works director for the city's water and sewer division.
Some other area municipalities use surface water because it is more abundant and more easily accessed, said public works director Robert Gordon.
Temple Terrace's water goes through a water-softening and bacterial-removing process before being distributed to about 38,000 customers. Lou Badami, the city's chief water plant operator, said his team treats 3.5 million gallons a day of potable water, an amount that equates to 1.4 billion gallons a year.
"On the technical side," Gordon said, "it's important to give credit to our water operators in our treatment facility who are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week monitoring the quality of our water supply."
"Obviously winning this award means a lot to us," he said. "It's quite a feather in the cap for Temple Terrace."
Cheri Donohue has lived most of her adult years here and raised all four of her now-adult children on city water. She always knew it tasted good but realizes now that she took its quality for granted.
After learning of the award, Donohue said, "This is just one more reason why people choose to come to our little piece of paradise."
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]