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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Corporate Taste Test

Posted by on March 22 at 11:33 AM

The local chapter of Corporate Accountability International, a cool group that exposes and challenges irresponsible behavior of transnational corporations (full disclosure, I used to work for them in the early 90s), held a water taste test in Seattle yesterday.

The group is currently battling companies like Coke and Pepsi and Nestle for privatizing water supplies in developing countries.

Yesterday, to prove that bottled water doesn’t actually taste better (and in fact, is less well-regulated) than public utility water, they set up shop at Westlake Center and gave people (including Ethan Stowell, Executive Chef and Owner of Union Restaurant & Doug Nufer, Manager of European Vine Selections) a blind-fold taste test.

People took sips of bottled water like Coke’s Dasani or Pepsi’s Aquafina—and tap water from public water here in Seattle. Out of nearly 60 people who took the test, only two (not Stowell of Nufer) could spot any difference. And the two folks who could tell the difference said they could only do so thanks to the “plastic-y” taste of the bottled water.

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That CANNOT be true. I just can't believe it!

Seattle water is fully enjoyable with a little filtration or in a pinch when parched, but if you get a fountain drink at a restaraunt here, you know instantly whether they are using filtered water for the drinks or not. It's terrible!

I know, who cares? I don't. But that has absolutely positively GOT to be a lie. Unpossible.

CAI's point about privatizing water supplies in developing countries is well taken. Nevermind that for a sec.

Duh, people can't tell Dasani or Aquafina (or Evian/Naive, for that matter) from tap water. To my tongue, tho, the Kirkland Signature bottled water that Costco sells actually does taste noticeably better than tap or any of the mainstream bottled brands. Bonus: It's cheap.

Disclosure: I used to work for Costco. YMMV.

And-- I wouldn't have read that bit about privatising water supplies in developing nations were it not for this dishonest PR gimmick. So, well played! And thanks CAI!

Question--where did the tap water come from? Often municipal pipes are good, but that won't matter if the building's pipes are old and crappy. And none of that will matter if the tap water was taken out of the watershed where the water was originally collected, where it should be pretty delicious (my parents stopped using water filters after touring the Cedar River watershed and learning about all of the steps that are taken to make it good).

That said, Seattle water is consistently tastier than the silty stuff that people in the Phoenix area get from the Colorado River. I find filters adequate, although there are still concerns about arsenic levels in the water down here. But people shouldn't live in the middle of the desert anyway.

If your tap water tastes crappy, blame your pipes, not the Seattle water supply. Seattle water is actually quite good, among the best in the US. Try this test. Fill a glass of water from your tap after it has not been in use of a few hours. Then run the cold water for about 5 minutes or so, and fill another glass. Taste, and see if you notice any difference in two glasses of water. If so, it is obviously your pipes, as the source water is the same. The water in the Cedar River watershed is so pure, it is one of the few municipal water supplies that does not require treatment.

That said, some neighborhoods in Seattle have much older water mains than others. So it may not be the pipes in your residence, but the city pipes in the street that are to blame.

Pipes or mayber the crud in the resevoir --

My bathroom tap produces better water than the kitchen. Old house - you bet - a pipe thing.

Seattle has about the best civic water in the USA. Exception migh be a smaller system right off artesian wells.

Bottle water is a scam. Corporate marketing at its finest. Put the money in a small scale investment.

The best tap water in the country is in New York City. It comes via the best system in the world from 100 miles away is why.

In Seattle, it depends entirely on whether you're north or south of the Ship Canal (roughly speaking). South, your water comes from the Cedar River, and is delicious; north, and it comes from the Tolt River, and is terrible, because of suspended gunk which is the fault, ironically, of red-cedar trees, not pollution.

If your Cap Hill water tastes bad, blame your pipes.

If you're in a city with good water, there isn't much difference between tap and bottled. But if you're not, there's a huge difference. I was in Birmingham, Alabama a few years ago (ugh), and while normally I think bottled water is basically a rip-off, the tap water there tasted so metallic and mineral-y that I felt like I was going to vomit every time I drank it. Be glad Seattle water is so good.

Not to mention bottled water litters the landscape with ton of plastic that is going nowhere in the forseeable future.

Here's the facts - 25% of all bottled water is JUST TAP WATER. Dasani - tap water, Aquafina - tap water. If we're suckered into thinking that bottled water (from who knows where, with who knows what in it) is better than our tap water, we will undoubtedly lose confidence in our public water systems, opening the door for privatization. If you think that slick, plastic-y tasting bottled water is cleaner than your mineral-y tasting tap water, check out this story from the Guardian UK -,3604,1174127,00.html
Don't believe the hype!

There ARE options between plain tap water and trillions of little tiny plastic bottles of maybe-reverse-ionized stuff. If your tap water tastes bad, you can buy spring water in very large containers with a spigot, or you can get refillable carboys and fill them at lots of places including a number of grocery stores (especially in rural areas where city water isn't common).

Plastic bottles also aren't too good for your health. They leach chemicals into the water. Clear plastic bottles aren't too toxic, but you're still probably better off with tap water. Anyone who uses Nalgene bottles should throw them away. They're very toxic.

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