A matter of taste

By Tony Gutierrez: Freedom Newspapers

A taste test of bottled water — we also slipped in Clovis tap water — conducted at the Baxter-Curren Senior Center in Clovis produced surprising results. City tap water tied with leading national brand Dasani for first place.
Twelve people tested 11 brands and the city’s water.
Albertson’s and Pure American also did well with the judges.
Music Mountain, Ozarka and Sam’s Choice finished at the bottom.

So you thought your favorite bottled water came from some far-away spring bubbling deep in a glen?

Some do. Others are derived from the same place as the water in your tap.

“You’d be surprised what all’s in the water,” said Terry Lusk, president of Clovis Bottlers, which produces Ogallala bottled water. “Excess fluoride, many, many elements. We remove all that and purify it here in the plant. Ours does not contain any
chlorine.”

In an unscientific 12-person taste test conducted by Freedom Newspapers comparing 11 bottled waters purchased in local stores and Clovis tap water, Dasani tied with Clovis tap water as the best. Ogallala finished second to Clovis tap water in its subgroup.

City water supplier New Mexico American Water Co. draws its water from the same source as Clovis Bottlers — the Ogallala Aquifer.
New Mexico American Water pumps the water to booster stations with large storage tanks. In these tanks the water is chlorinated and distributed in an underground pipe system that has a line connecting to every house.

Wholesale sales of bottled water grew to $11 billion in 2006, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp., and the industry is expected to maintain growth rates of about 10 percent. The fastest growing segment of the industry is sales of bottles of less than 1.5 liters, which includes the individual serving sizes sold in many convenience and grocery stores.

The contenders
Albertson’s
Water source: “High-quality mountain spring sources” throughout the United States.
Comment: Bottled by Niagara Bottling, the exact spring depends on where the water is bottled. Spokesman Brian Hess said each spring is certified by the state and reviewed by a quality assurance team.

Arrowhead
Water source: Municipal sources.
Comment: Representatives of the company would not disclose what municipalities are used.

Aquafina
Water source: Public water source.
Comment: Bottled by PepsiCo. The water is purified in a seven-step process.

Dasani
Water source: Local municipal water.
Comment: A product of Coca-Cola Co. The nearest Dasani bottler to Clovis is in Denver. Salt, magnesium sulfate and potassium chloride are added for taste, representatives said.

Evian
Water source: Cachat Spring on the southern shore of Lake Geneva in Evian-Les-Bains, France.
Comment: The water takes about 15 years to come down from the French Alps, going through a natural filtration process, according to Evian account supervisor Katie Murphy.

Music Mountain
Water source: A natural spring in the Ouachita Mountains in central Arkansas.

Ogallala
Water source: Wells owned by Clovis Bottlers.
Comment: Purification is done with ozonation.

Ozarka
Water source: A spring in Piney Woods, Texas.

Pure American
Water source: Big Spring in Mount Shasta, Calif.
Comment: It is bottled by CCDA Waters.

Sam’s Choice
Water source: Local municipal water.
Comment: The nearest bottler to Clovis is in Las Vegas, Nev. The water goes through a triple filtration process that includes a sand filter, carbon filter and cotton filter. It then goes through reverse osmosis and ozonation.

Test Results
Sub group 1
Albertson’s 5 first-place votes, 2 second-place votes, 3 third-place votes
Sam’s Choice 4 first, 0 second, 6 third
Great Value 1 first, 8 second, 1 third

Sub group 2
Dasani 8 first, 2 second, 0 third
Aquafina 0 first, 6 second, 4 third
Ozarka 2 first, 2 second, 6 third

Sub group 3
Pure American 5 first, 1 second, 3 third
Evian 3 first, 2 second, 4 third
Arrowhead 1 first, 6 second, 2 third

Sub group 4
City of Clovis 4 first, 3 second, 2 third
Ogallala 3 first, 1 second, 5 third
Music Mountain 2 first, 5 second, 2 third

Best of each group
No. of votes 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
City of Clovis 3 first-place votes, 1 second-place vote, 2 third-place votes, 3 fourth-place votes
Dasani 3 first, 1 second, 2 third, 3 fourth
Pure American 2 first, 3 second, 2 third, 2 fourth
Albertson’s 1 first, 4 second, 3 third, 1 fourth

Comments from judges
I think a lot of this has to do with what you were raised with. — Brenda Hankins
It was surprising that the city water was as good as it was. — Sue Woodcock
It was really unusual how different each bottle of water tasted. — Vicki Miller

Terms associated with bottled water
Reverse osmosis: “The water is forced through a filter with very small membranes. It traps impurities and the result on the other side is a virtually pure water,” said Celeste Edge, consumer affairs specialist at Cott Beverages, which bottles Sam’s Choice purified drinking water.
Ozonation: O3 is an unstable molecule that when put into water, tries to go back to its normal state and breaks up any bacteria and kills it. It forms an electrical current that’s made and generated and dissipated after 24 hours, according to Terry Lusk, president of Clovis Bottlers, which manufactures Ogallala bottled water.
Chlorination: Water is treated by chlorine to kill any possible bacteria that could be in the water, according to Kathy Wright, New Mexico American Water Co. vice president. It’s a process many municipalities use, she said.