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Water tops all others in blind taste test at Oregon Association of Water Utilities Conference in Sunriver.

HOLLY M. GILL - Deschutes Valley Water District General Manager Ed Pugh displays the district's award for best overall water in the state. Pugh holds a bottle of the district's pure water, which comes from Opal Springs.
The five-year "drought" of awards for what locals know is the best-tasting water in the state is over. Deschutes Valley Water District won the award for Overall Best Water in Oregon last week.

The award, presented March 7, during the 40th annual Oregon Association of Water Utilities Conference, at Sunriver, recognized DVWD's water as the state's best for the fifth time since 1996. The district previously won the award in 2001, 2003, and most recently in 2013.

Ed Pugh, general manager for DVWD, took the water sample from his kitchen sink, put it in a glass jar, and took it to the conference, where three judges conducted a blind taste test with the various samples.

Before the taste test, the water samples are divided based on their source — ground water or surface water — and then judged on clarity, bouquet and taste.

"All the bottles are labeled with numbers. We won the ground water category, and Stayton won the surface water," he said.

The two samples then competed head to head, with the judges naming the DVWD sample the overall winner.

"I think the key to success, if you have good water, is to enter every year," said Pugh, who is proud to have won the award for the second time since he became manager in 2004. "It's a big deal; we love winning it."

At the weeklong conference attended by hundreds of water and wastewater operators from across the state, Pugh was also re-elected president of the Oregon Association of Water Utilities' 13-member board of directors for a second one-year term.

The district has been a member of the nonprofit association, which serves Oregon's water and wastewater utilities with training and technical service, since November 1979.

One of 3,383 active public water systems in the state, Deschutes Valley Water District serves 4,200 water meters — in Culver, Metolius and the area surrounding Madras, plus about 900 water meters in Madras — for an estimated population of about 12,000.

DVWD gets its water from Opal Springs, located in the bottom of the 850-foot deep Crooked River Canyon, about 5 miles southwest of Culver. Before the spring emerges from a deep aquifer, flowing at a rate of 108,000 gallons per minute, it first flows through thousands of feet of basalt.

Since the water was first measured in 1925, both the flow and the temperature of 53.8 degrees Fahrenheit have remained constant. Because of its exceptional purity, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't require additional treatment.

Two water bottlers, Earth2O and the smaller Opal Springs Water Co., both located in Culver, bottle and sell the water.

DVWD water will compete with other water in the National Best Water Contest at the annual National Rural Water Association's Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C., Feb. 4-6, 2019.

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