Seven glasses of water lined up in a row may not show any distinguishing differences, but the Ontario Water Works Association (OWWA) want to know how different they taste. While everyone else in Niagara was sipping on their tap water, the OWWA was organizing a water tasting with water samples submitted from water treatment plants across the province.
So here’s how it works. There were samples from Collingwood, Barrie, Blue Mountain, Niagara Falls, Windsor, Fort Erie and Smith Falls. The week before a preliminary tasting took place with a secret group of high profile water judges. Then during the OWWA conference in Niagara Falls, the waters were positioned on the trade floor for random tasting. Votes were tallied, waters eliminated and then on the final day of the conference, the final tasting of the top two waters took place.
Two clear jugs half filled with water faced the three judges. The room temperature water was poured into small glasses. On first taste, I thought both water A and B were identical! We all tasted again and again, then the tiny little indistinguishable differences began to show. Water A tasted fresh, clean, almost sweet with a hint of earth. Water B was also fresh, clean, almost sweet with a hint of earth, but water B seemed to have a fuller mouthfeel and lasted longer. So which one was better? I suppose the one that gave the greatest pleasure to the drinker.
There are 6 water plants in the Niagara region, each one regulated by the Ministry of the Environment and all 6 plants have consistently rated 100% or higher on water quality with each inspection.
The winner was announced at the OWWA closing dinner and Niagara won bragging rights for the top 2 coveted spots for Ontario’s best water! The top water title went to Fort Erie with Niagara Falls a close second.
At the dinner, Niagara Falls water worker, Ed Skala sat on one side of me and on the other was Erin Billy, a water worker from Welland. When asked if they taste the water they produce, Ed says “I just make water”. Ed is more concerned with the amount of water used in each household and talks about that with great authority. The Niagara Falls plant shares water with Port Robinson, Thorold South and parts of Niagara-on-the-Lake. But Erin says “I taste the water from the treatment plant. It’s important to taste what you’re putting out there.”
I picked up my glass of water and the ice had condensated around the base and when I tipped it to my lips, it spilled all over my notes. If wine stained notes are a sign of a good time, then what are water stained notes at a water convention a sign of? No one had an answer.
But they did share one of the major annual events that water workers partake in with pride; the deconstruction and reconstruction of a water metre. Erin won the competition for the fastest time and as they talked around the table I had visions of a criminal on TV taking apart a gun and putting it back together again with the greatest skill.
My one request to Ed and Erin was for carbonated water. I asked if there are any plans in the future to offer carbonated water as an option? I think it’s a good direction for them to pursue, but then what do I know about the water business, I didn’t even know what a water metre looked like before that night.