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Video: Tap-water tasting: Faucet favorites

TODAY contributor
updated 7/20/2007 11:39:22 AM ET 2007-07-20T15:39:22

Its namesake lake may be saltier than the ocean, but, according to two wine-tasting experts, Salt Lake City’s tap water is, in a word, "delicious."

"Viscous, thick and rich," was how professional wine taster David Lynch described the water to TODAY co-hosts Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer.

"Nonflawed, clean and delicious," added his colleague, Joe Bastianich.

The two wine tasters, who admitted to suffering from "palate fatigue" during their labors, had a lot of fun and not a few one-liners doing the honors as judges in the contest organized by the TODAY Show. To avoid bias, New York City’s water —whose quality is generally held to be among the best in the nation — was not entered.

NBC affiliates in 12 cities were given two identical, clean plastic bottles which were filled from taps and shipped to New York, where they were stored at 60 degrees —cellar temperature — at the request of the judges. The tasting was done in the studio kitchen production area with clean glassware, cubes of French bread for palate-cleansing and spittoons.

Running close behind in the unscientific, blind taste-test of the water from 12 cities were runners-up Boston and Columbia, S.C.

Boston’s water, said Bastianich, "has a purity — it’s straight down the middle."

"It’s very crisp and appealing," offered Lynch.

Columbia’s tap water, said Lynch, is "luscious — I like its guts."

"It’s a chunky monkey," said Bastianich, meaning it as a compliment.

"Hats off to all three finalists," said Bastianich, who wasn’t surprised to discover the source of the water he and Lynch judged to be the best.

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"They probably have a great source of Rocky Mountain run-off water," said the professional wine taster. "It makes all the sense in the world that Salt Lake City has great water."

The verdict was not just a victory for civic pride; it could also be taken as validation by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who earlier this year "asked all of our department heads not to spend any more taxpayers’ dollars on bottled water."

The contest was inspired by recent stories questioning the benefits of bottled water versus tap water.

Tap water makes a comeback
"Scientific tests show that bottled water is no better for you than tap water," Vieira reported. "And you can buy 1,000 gallons of tap water for the price of one bottle of water."

Americans spend $30 billion a year on bottled water, and according to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, 47 million gallons of oil are consumed annually to produce the bottles it comes in.

Last month, partially in response to a “San Francisco Chronicle” investigation that found that the city had spent $2.36 million of taxpayers’ money in 4 ½ years on bottled water, Newsom ordered all city departments and agencies to stop buying bottled water effective July 1.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has also told his agencies to stop spending tax dollars on bottled water.

While Bastianich and Lynch said all 12 of the waters they tasted were fine for drinking, they do make their living by being critical and had some amusing things to say about a few of the samples during their tastings.

One, the acerbic Bastianich said, was "good for washing your car." Another, he described as tasting as if it had come out of 40 feet of new garden hose.

Still another had "the slightest nose of an empty baby-food jar."

But, he said when the tasting was done, "what’s important to understand is that tap water is a viable alternative to bottled water. Tap water where you live is probably great. And there’s a lot of issues with bottled water."

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