Discerning palates tasted six different tap water samples from around Albany County, but even with varying tastes one truth is evident: water is best cold.
The local first round of the state’s Best Drinking Water contest was held on Tuesday, July 10, in the lobby of the Harold L. Joyce County Office Building on State Street in Albany. Once again, the Town of Guilderland captured the favor of the majority of taste buds, which advances the town to the regional competition to be held during Alive at Five in Albany on Thursday, Aug. 8. Guilderland took first place with 35 points and edged out runner-up Latham by 4 points.
Guilderland Department of Water Superintendent Timothy McIntyre was pleased the town was named top tap in the county.
“We put a lot of time and effort into maintaining and producing the best quality of water we can. It is nice to be recognized,” McIntyre said. “We were fortunate that people like the taste of our water.”
This year’s participants were Albany, Bethlehem, Guilderland, Cohoes, Latham and Green Island. The municipalities in the competition are entered on a first-come, first-serve basis, so people are not overwhelmed with too many samples.
Guilderland isn’t new to the spotlight, because last year the town tied with the Town of Niskayuna at the regional competition. Guilderland then took second place at the state competition held at the State Fair in Syracuse, and Niskayuna took first place.
“We have kind of hard water in the Town of Guilderland and hard water with its minerals has its own complexities and taste,” McIntyre said.
At the recent county competition, one sample sunk to the bottom immediately because it tasted warm in comparison to other samples, according to water tasters. That sample was from Cohoes.
Jim Close, of Stillwater, said he chose Guilderland as his top choice because it had a “crisp taste” and didn’t have any chlorine flavor. He also commented on how the Cohoes sample was warmer, which knocked it from consideration for his top choice.
“It has got to be cold,” Close said. “They all have to be the same temperature for it to be a fair test.”
Competition participants are instructed to deliver their water sample in some way to keep it cold, such as in a cooler with ice. Some participants also chose a glass jug to hold the water while others used plastic.
“Some of them had an aftertaste and some didn’t,” said Robert Cherry of Albany. His first-place choice was Bethlehem, with Latham garnering second.
“(Bethlehem) and (Latham) were the best in terms of how cool and how good they taste,” Cherry said.
The competition was a blind taste test, meaning samples were identified by a letter to prevent any bias. Each first-place pick was awarded two points and a second-place choice earned a sample one point.
Mary Rozak, spokeswoman for County Executive Dan McCoy, broke down the points awarded to the first and second place. Guilderland had 15 first-place votes and five second-place votes. Latham had fewer first-place votes at 10, but nabbed 11 second-place votes.
Kristin McGrath, of Cohoes, chose Guilderland as her top choice and Green Island as her second. She said she likes her tap water in Cohoes and assumed it was one of her top choices.
“They tasted the cleanest,” McGrath said. “There was no aftertaste.”
Stephanie Collins, of Albany, said she could taste a difference between the samples, but her two choices, Green Island and Guilderland, in that order, tasted “pure.”
“Better than bottled water, too,” Collins added.
McIntyre said Guilderland has blended water because its main sources are two town wells and water purchased from the City of Watervliet’s reservoir, which is actually located in Guilderland but owned by the city. During peak periods, the town also purchases water from Albany.
“We strive to produce the best tasting water we can and most plant operators do that,” McIntyre said. “It is just some have a better water source than others and it depends on their distribution system and how old it is.”
He said Guilderland has just as much of a chance at taking the title of best tasting drinking water in the state as any other municipality. He will wait and “see where the chips fall,” but is optimistic the town could win.
“I’d like to say it is something we are best at or top of line, but it varies from the types of plants to filtration,” he said.