Tap vs. bottled

Placer County water scores well in taste test
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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By Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer Plain old Placer County Water Agency tap water got some high ratings Monday in a blind taste test against bottled waters by thirsty American River canyon users. With a moderately cool and overcast day drawing people to the canyon for biking, hiking and other activities, the Journal set up a table with chilled samples of water agency tap water, Dasani and Crystal Geyser for tasting. Some samplers couldn't tell the difference between the bottled and tap varieties while others chose the tap water. In the end, it all proved a matter of taste “ with the agency's product scoring well against its pricier, more packaged competitors. That's good water “ they should be proud, said Truckee mountain biker Mark Chavez. He described the Dasani as acidic and bitter but couldn't make up his mind between the water agency water and the bottled Crystal Geyser. Despite the tie between the two waters, Chavez said he'd stick to tap. I don't think I should have to pay for drinking water, he said. If I'm going to pay for water, it's going to have hops in it. Roseville's Kallie Arroyo, took a walk in the canyon at the confluence and took part in the Journal's version of the Pepsi challenge. She chose the Placer County Water Agency cup. They don't taste that much different but I like the taste of that one better, Arroyo said. Arroyo said she'll drink tap water at home but chooses bottled water when she's out of the house. Others weren't so sure about what they liked. It all tastes like water, said Roseville's Melissa Patrick. I think they all taste the same. Others favored the bottled water. Tahoe's Shawn Whitney said the flavors were all fairly close but that he liked the Crystal Geyser the best. It had the least aftertaste, Whitney said, adding that he's glad to be back from San Diego, where the water tastes strongly of chlorine. Auburn's Carl Koenig liked the water agency and Dasani taste and then chose Dasani. Koenig said that he drinks bottled water but it's the distilled type “ the kind people buy to put in clothes irons or car batteries to avoid mineral buildup. For cooking, he uses tap water. I know a lot of bottled water is just tap water put through a filter, he said. Coke vs. Pepsi or Chevrolet vs. Ford “ or even boxers or briefs “ the Bottled vs. Tap debate is gaining steam on the national level. An effort to push bottled water out of schools and a little further into the nation's consciousness is now taking place with national organization Food & Water Watch's Take Back the Tap Campaign. The organization is asking people to take back the tap by reducing or eliminating their use of bottled water while advocating increased funding for public drinking water and water treatment. It has recruited celebrity Alec Baldwin to tout tap water over bottled. The group, in fact, notes that as much as 40 percent of bottled water is bottled tap water. Bottled water is not as environmentally friendly as people think it is, Baldwin said in a statement announcing Food & Water Watch's I Heart Tap Water video contest for students. John Kingsbury, Placer County Water Agency director of customer services, said that the agency is diligent in producing high-quality drinking water but doesn't have a specific policy promoting its use over bottled. We have good, high-quality water that's regulated whereas bottled water doesn't have the same regulation, he said. Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said tap water is better for consumers' health, their pocketbooks and the environment. We will need enormous public support to get Congress to dedicate the billions of dollars needed to ensure safe and affordable water for future generations, Hauter said. Auburn Lake Trails' Mary Stoner said she was impressed with the tap water. She uses refillable jugs of water bought at an Auburn store “ which she admitted was a carryover from living in Sacramento, where the taste of the water is noticeable. Stoner was one of the samplers who chose tap water. It was good, she said. I like it coming cold out of the jug but I suppose I could fill the jug up from the tap just as easily. Food & Water Watch is now targeting schools in an effort to remove bottled water from campuses. Our student groups got Coca-Cola off campus, and we got fair trade coffee in the dining halls, student Emanuel Figueroa, a senior at University of Michigan, said in the Food & Water Watch release. Take Back the Tap is the logical next step for our environmental and economic justice work. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at, or post a comment at Bottled vs. tap? Fast facts* - Bottled water is not safer than tap water. The federal government requires more rigorous and frequent safety testing and monitoring of municipal drinking water. - Bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water. The cost of a bottle of tap water is about $0.002 per gallon compared to a range of $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon for bottled waters. - Bottled water creates mountains of needless garbage - Producing plastic bottles uses energy and emits toxic chemicals - Transporting bottled water releases carbon dioxide from vehicles into the air - Transporting the bottles puts additional traffic on freeways - A Natural Resources Defense Council study found one-third of the bottled water tested contained levels of contamination exceeding allowable limits under either state or bottled water industry guidelines. - 86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the U.S. become garbage or litter, according to the Container Recycling Institute *Food & Water Watch and Santa Clara Valley Water District information compiled by Gus Thomson Take the test yourself The Journal took a bottle of Dasani water, a bottle of Crystal Geyser water, and a bottle of Placer County Water Agency water poured from a tap to the American River Confluence. We marked Styrofoam cups with different-colored felt pens and then asked passersby to try each one and pick a favorite. Nothing too scientific but the results were revealing. Let us know how things went in the comment box below.