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What ARE They Drinking In West Virginia?
By Dave Kiffer


March 25, 2008

Ketchikan, Alaska - Sometimes you see a headline that makes you laugh.

For example, this howler from USA Today a short time ago.

jpg What ARE They Drinking In West Virginia?By Dave Kiffer

"LA Water Tops National Taste Test"

Okay. Sure. Gotta to be the best at being the worst, right?.

And I'm not just taking a cheap shot at LA here. I spent several years drinking that sludge they called tap water.

That of course was back in the days when "designer water" was pretty much a blip on the radar. It was something that only those rich Beverly Hills' types could afford.

Anyway, in those days of yore, LA tap water had some interesting "qualities" about it. Especially to someone who had grown on Ketchikan tap water.

First off, it was grainy. You could see those little bits of the Grand Canyon or the California High Desert swirling around in it.

There were two axioms of gallows humor in LA in those days. Never breathe any air you can't see and never drink any water that doesn't "crunch."

And the water was always warm. You could pretty much run the faucet all day and it would never get even remotely cold. I know, I tried it once.

I can admit that now because the Statue of Limitations has passed for "Crimes Against The Water Supply."

These days if you let the tap run - or water your lawn on the wrong day - it is a capital offence in Southern California.

The only way to get water cold was to put it in the fridge for a while That also served the purpose of letting the sediment (see above) settle and then you scoop most of the minerals out with a spoon.

And then there was the "taste" of the LA tap water. I've been pondering just how to describe it for many years.

It tasted like it was filtered through old boot liners.

So natch, I read further in the story to hear about how LA water was the worst around.

Silly me.

Some folks in West Virginia think that LA's rep for bad water is all wet.

The 18th Annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting determined last month that LA had the best "municipal water" of 2008. It tied for the top spot with the appropriately named "Clearbrook" British Columbia.

Being a suspicious type, I figured the "rig" was in and that someone had switched bottles somewhere along the way.

Maybe the same folks who once "stole" the Owens River for a water source, had now "stole" the contest by sending along some "tap" water from somewhere up the pipe, probably some gusher high in the Sierra Nevadas.

But no, the LA water has been consistently high in the "Berzerkeley"Springs contest for several years, previously finishing in the top five several times

Okay. I guess we need to consider the judges. Just who was casting their votes for LA water? The Ron (Moe and Dah-Doo!!) Brothers?

In reality, it seems that the judging panel each year is made up primarily of travel industry "professionals" and journalists. With a couple of food critics sprinkled in like bay leaves.

Travel industry "professionals" have been advising us for years to "don't drink the water." Now they are saying we should go ahead and guzzle Southland Swill, I mean LA water. Interesting, very interesting. Was the contest sponsored by Kaopectate?

As to using journalists as judges, well, based on the drinking habits of most of the journalists I have worked with over the past 25 years, it must be that the extra "ingredients" in LA water have a high "proof" rating. Either that or they were "cleansing their palates" a little too much prior to the judging!

Same with the food "critics." A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite!

So if it's not the judges, maybe the rules are rigged.

The tap water is supposed to be judged on "taste, odor, mouth feel, and aftertaste."

I'm not sure what "mouth feel" means (nor do I really want to know), but I can attest that LA water indeed has taste (bad), odor (gym socks) and aftertaste (burrito burp).

And just so you know I am not basing this on out of date info, I have been back to SoCal a couple of times in recent years and can confirm that the tap water remains as putrid as it was in my college days.

Maybe Ketchikan should enter next year's contest.

Next to the winning "qualities" of LA water, what's so bad about of drip of giardia or a drop of haleocetic acid?

Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2008

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