Macon's drinking water judged the nation's best

Turn on the tap and raise a toast: Macon has the best-tasting drinking water in the country.

That was the judges’ verdict Tuesday afternoon during the annual meeting of the American Water Works Association in San Diego.

“Everybody in town says we have the best-tasting water,” said Tony Rojas, director of the Macon Water Authority. “Now we know they’re right.

“I’ve always thought it was delicious,” he said.

After judging, the field of contestants was narrowed to six cities from across the country. That in itself was quite an accomplishment, Rojas said.

Then, as Lakeway, S.C., and Silverdale, Wash., — the third- and second-place finishers respectively — were announced and Macon hadn’t been called, Rojas took some consolation: “Well, at least we were in the top six,” he figured.

Then the winner in the Best of the Best taste contest was announced: Macon, Georgia.

“It takes a lot to win a contest at that level and is something they can be proud of,” said Greg Kail, director of public affairs for the A.W.W.A.Louisville, Ky., captured the honor in 2008.

“It’s really fantastic. I’m tickled to death,” said Frank Amerson, the water authority chairman. “It’s just unthinkable that you’d be first out of so many.”

Macon qualified for the national competition by winning best-of honors in Georgia during last summer’s competition. In the days leading up to the national convention, the water authority sent water samples to San Diego for judging.

Three judges evaluated the 20 entrants in the competition and the expert judges looked for something a little different than other drink competitions.

“The ideal situation would be to taste nothing,” said Stephen Booth, one of the judges.

The water tasted at the competition is the water authority’s “typical water” at room temperature, Booth said, which means the water submitted will include chlorine and other chemicals that keep it safe to drink.

“It all depends on how the flavors mix,” he said. “Sometimes the chlorine helps because it’s masking.”

The judges taste the water in a manner similar to what might be seen at a wine tasting.

Judges sniff the water and swirl it around in their mouths.

“If there is going to be an odor you’re only going to pick it up on the first or second sniff,” Booth said.

But eventually “you just make a judgement call,” he said. “This is a semi-scientific and a semi-fun event.”

For Macon, the taste of victory is sweet.

“This is something we all can be proud of,” Rojas said.

To contact writer Oby Brown, call 744-4396.