Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough County wins best-tasting drinking water in Tampa Bay

TEMPLE TERRACE

With 14 clear plastic cups before them, a panel of judges got to work Friday morning.

Some lifted their glasses to the light, swirling the liquid contents inside. Others brought them to their noses, taking a whiff. Two clinked their cups together — Cheers! — before tasting.

Palate-cleansing saltines helped refresh taste buds between rounds.

The four judges had a mission: to find the best-tasting drinking water in Tampa Bay.

This year's honors went to Hillsborough County's Lake Park water-treatment plant, which serves the northwest portion of the county, including Carrollwood.

"I'm honored and shocked at the same time," said plant manager Paul Kavanagh, who had collected the sample from his kitchen sink a few hours earlier.

The winning glass of water is a blend of several different water sources, Kavanagh said, giving it its unique taste.

Held once a year by the American Water Works Association, the event highlights the work of water utilities across the region. It also serves as an opportunity for those in the industry to gather for some fun. The award, a large traveling trophy, is more about bragging rights than anything else.

Water utilities from Sumter, Citrus, Polk, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties participated. First place winner Hillsborough County will compete at the state level in April. The winner of that competition heads to nationals.

Hosted by last year's winner, the event Friday took place in the gym of the Temple Terrace Family Recreation Complex.

The rules are simple: The water has to be from the tap. Organizers make sure of this by checking the samples for chlorine, which bottled water does not have. It has to be served at room temperature, which a thermometer verifies.

"Because cold water tastes better," said Steve King, AWWA treasurer for region IV. "This levels the playing field."

And participants can't have any violations during the past 12 months. That one is on the honor system.

Missing from the competition: the city of Tampa.

"They were invited," King said.

There was speculation that last month's squirrel-induced boil-water debacle may have had something to do with their absence. "You remember what happened a few weeks ago," said Emilie Moore, the vice chair of AWWA region IV.

But, when reached Friday afternoon, Tampa officials said that was not the case.

"We haven't participated in a long time," said Tampa Water Department director Brad Baird.

The city's water source is surface water from the Hillsborough River, while almost all of the other utilities use groundwater, he said.

"If the judges are used to drinking groundwater, surface water is different," Baird said. "It would be like entering an orange into an apple-tasting contest. So for us, it's not worthwhile."

Departments were allowed to choose their container of choice, with some going for glamor using decorative glass dispensers and others sticking with unpretentious plastic water jugs.

A representative from Plant City walked in carrying a simple glass jug with the word "WINNER" written across its surface.

That's when the competition got a little dirty. Someone soon defaced it — adding an "e" after the "i" in permanent black marker.

Served at their table, the judges didn't seem to notice. Their job was to score for taste, color and odor.

And it wasn't easy.

"Most of them are very good," said judge Jeff Cunningham, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of South Florida. "There was one that I didn't like the smell or taste of, but all of the other 13 were of very high quality that I would be happy to drink from my kitchen sink."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

Hillsborough County wins best-tasting drinking water in Tampa Bay 03/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Officer told Venus Williams she caused fatal crash (w/video)

    Tennis

    FORT LAUDERDALE — Video shows a police officer told tennis start Venus Williams she likely caused a crash that fatally injured an elderly man but didn't cite her, saying it appeared the actions of a third driver left her in a bad spot.

    In this Jan. 28 file photo, Venus Williams answers questions at a press conference at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia. [AP photo]
  2. Florida 'Dreamers' worry Obama-era protection will disappear

    Blogs

    Andrea Seabra imagined the worst if Donald Trump won: "I thought on the first day he would say, 'DACA is done' and send immigration officers to every house."

    Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.
  3. Siesta Key: 4 things you need to know about MTV's new Florida reality series

    Blogs

    By now you probably know MTV shot a reality series in the number one beach in America. Siesta Key, airing Monday at 10, follows a group of young adults as they navigate life in their early 20s over a summer in sunny Florida.

    The cast of Siesta Key during press interviews at Gary Kompothecras's mansion in Siesta Key. The MTV series premieres July 31 at 10 p.m.
  4. Times recommends: Rick Baker for St. Petersburg mayor

    Editorials

    St. Petersburg voters are fortunate to have two experienced candidates for mayor. Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have deep roots in the city and long records of public service. Both have helped transform St. Petersburg into an urban success story. At this moment, Baker is the better choice to keep the …

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board recommends Rick Baker for St. Petersburg mayor. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

  5. The goal of a new program in Hillsborough schools: Read a book in English, discuss it in Spanish

    K12

    TAMPA — Giadah and Gamadiel Torres are 5-year-old twins. "We were born at the same time," is how Giadah explains their birth.

    Twins Giadah and Gamadiel Torres, 5, learn about the dual language program they will enter this year at Bellamy Elementary School. [SARAH KLEIN | Special to the Times]