DVWD wins overall best water award


Districts water will represent state at national competition

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Eldon Barker, chairman of the Deschutes County Water District Board of Directors, and Ed Pugh, manager of the district, hold the statewide trophies the district won recently for best over water in the state and best groundwater.For many local residents, it doesn't take a contest to prove that Opal Springs water is the best around. One taste and they're convinced.

Nevertheless, it's gratifying to receive that validation as a result of an official taste test by a panel of judges. This year, for the first time since 2003, Deschutes Valley Water District's water was selected as the state's Best Overall Water of the Year for 2013.

At the 35th annual Oregon Association of Water Utilities Technical and Management Conference, held at Sunriver Resort in March, DVWD was recognized for the Best Groundwater. Then in a head-to-head contest with the winner of the Best Surface Water, the panel of five judges conducted a blind taste test for clarity, bouquet and taste, and the DVWD sample came out on top.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Deschutes Valley Water District Chairman Eldon Barker, left, and Manager Ed Pugh, right, display bottles of the water that won best in state.Ed Pugh, general manager of DVWD, said that the district's water has previously won the contest in 1996, 2001, and 2003, but not since he became the manager in 2004.

Even though he doesn't consider his palate particularly sensitive, "I personally love our water and its taste. I also professionally love our water because we do not have to treat it or chlorinate it."

The water flows out of the ground at Opal Springs, about five miles southwest of Culver, at a rate of 108,000 gallons per minute and temperature of 53.8 degrees Fahrenheit, which has remained constant since it was first measured in 1925.

The water flows through thousands of feet of basalt before it emerges at the bottom of the 850-foot deep Crooked River Canyon. Because it has virtually no contaminants, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't require additional treatment.

Surprisingly, Pugh said that other recent winners of the statewide award have been districts that chlorinate their water, but are allowed to collect the water from the source, before the chlorine is added — so customers don't taste what the judges taste.

Usually, Pugh takes the water sample directly from Opal Springs before attending the annual conference at Sunriver. "However, this year, I was running a little late, so I took the sample from my kitchen sink at home," he said. "It kind of struck me as funny that the best tasting water in Oregon came from my kitchen sink."

Water from Deschutes Valley Water District, which serves about 14,000-15,000 people — including the city of Madras and inmates at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution — is also bottled by Earth2O, and the smaller Opal Springs Water Co., at their plants in Culver.

"I believe the water bottlers like to tout our best-tasting water status, even though it's been a while until (winning) this year," said Pugh.

DVWD water will be entered to represent Oregon in the National Best Water Contest at the annual National Rural Water Association's Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C., at the end of the year.

The district has been a member of the Oregon Association of Water Utilities since November 1979. The nonprofit association, which has over 700 members, serves Oregon's water and wastewater utilities with training and technical service. For more information, visit their website at www.oawu.net, or call 503-837-1212.