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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 29, 2018 4 years ago

Sarasota County scores water win, but what did we think?

Sarasota County won best-tasting drinking water, so we tried it ourselves — and it was pretty good.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

Sarasota County has the best-tasting drinking water, according to the results of a contest between public water suppliers in a four-county area.

Hearing this, we had to test the waters. Literally.

The Observer staff taste-tested water from four sources.

In an effort to find out what, exactly, the best water tastes like, the Sarasota Observer conducted its own taste test.

Eight Observer employees and one esteemed chef blindly tasted water from Sarasota County, the city of Sarasota, Longboat Key and Publix’s spring water, without knowing the source.

The results were mixed.

Overall, they liked the Publix water the best, Longboat Key water second and Sarasota County water third. They didn’t like water they perceived to have a “chemical” taste, and gravitated toward the water that was neutral.

 “It tastes the most like nothing,” said Executive Editor Kat Hughes.

Christian Hershman, a local food and drink expert who founded catering company Looped Square Collective, is a self-described “water snob.” But he thought after trying all four options, the county water tasted the best.

“It comes across as the cleanest, most neutral, even profile,” Hershman said. “I can see why it won … there’s no chemical up-front or after taste.”

Sarasota County customers use 20 million gallons of that water every day, treated from a variety of sources.

The majority of the county’s water comes from the Peace River, as a member of the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Authority. There are also a number of groundwater supplies within Sarasota County, and a portion of the water is purchased from Manatee County.

Sarasota County Utilities Manager Dave Cash called this “a pretty reliable portfolio, if you will, of water sources.”

Reporter Bret Hauff fills out his water taste-test scorecard.

The water is treated in different ways depending on the source. At the Carlton Reserve in south Sarasota County, water from groundwater sources are treated through electrodialysis reversal — a unique process that removes the minerals from the water. This is the water the county submitted to the contest, which is mostly available in south Sarasota County. The Sarasota Observer tested water from north Sarasota County.

Other water is treated through reverse osmosis, or through aeration and chlorination. Often, the water supplies are blended together.

“We try to maintain a consistent product so there aren’t any variations in the taste or quality of water,” Cash said.

Even with all these sources, Cash said his team is constantly planning for the future.

“Water is obviously a precious resource, and we look 20, 30, 40 years out in terms of planning to ensure that we will always have enough water for our customers.”

Hershman pointed out the intricacies of treating water.

“It’s pretty nuanced, but we all drink a lot of water,” he said. “No one even thinks about behind the curtain.”

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I’m Cassidy. I cover news in Sarasota County, Siesta Key and the schools, plus community events if they involve dogs. I’m a Florida native, and University of North Florida graduate with degrees in journalism and graphic design. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 304.

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