Cumberland Times-News

February 27, 2013

Water, water

But whose is the best to drink? It depends.

Cumberland Times-News

— Reading that Emporia, Kan., was judged recently to have the nation’s best tap water reminded us of a local urban legend our newspaper has never been able to track down.

As long ago as the late 1960s, those who are old-timers here began hearing that Cumberland was judged to have the best municipal water supply in the country.

It may be that someone out there in Newspaperland knows the source of this information. If so, we would welcome them to pass it on; it has eluded us.

Emporia won the prize at the Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) International Water Tasting. The rumor about Cumberland has been around for longer than the 23 years the water-testing has been held.

Berkeley Springs is an appropriate place for such a contest. Long known as a popular resort, it has drawn visitors that included George Washington and soldiers wounded in the Revolutionary War who came in the hope that water from the town’s springs would heal them.

One’s preference for water — or any other beverage or food item — is a matter of ... well, taste.

Pure water has no taste; that is conferred by the type and quantity of minerals it contains. When the combination is right, the product is considered good enough to bottle and sell.

A Cumberlander once reported after a visit to a famous bottled-water producer that he asked the source of the water and was told, “New York City.” (New York City? Shades of the salsa commercial.)

Much of New York’s water comes from springs in the Catskill Mountains, and that’s what makes it so good. As the people who once brewed Old Export Beer in Cumberland liked to say, “Mountain Water Makes the Difference.”

New York’s water has such a following that some of the city’s expatriates who operate bakeries and restaurants in places as far away as California actually have water shipped clear across the country from The Big Apple to use in their bread, pizza crusts and bagels. They say that water from local sources contributes to an inferior product.

There’s one other thing about water that puzzles us: Why do we often pay more for a bottle of water that contains only cost-free natural ingredients than we do for the same size bottle of soft drink, which contains ingredients that cost money to introduce?