State takes a dif­fer­ent Ori­gin

Fresh look at our most ba­sic sta­ple shows there’s a lot hap­pen­ing be­tween rain and glass

Central and North Burnett Times - - WEEKEND - BY He­len Speli­tis

TAP water. It’s colour­less, of­ten odour­less but never taste­less, de­spite pop­u­lar be­lief. For cen­turies philoso­phers, in­clud­ing the revered Aris­to­tle, claimed water had no taste and was merely a ves­sel for flavour. But any­one who has ever moved around knows the tap water in each Aus­tralian town has its own unique bou­quet. Now, towns are bat­tling it out to claim the ti­tle of Aus­tralia’s tasti­est drop and Queens­land is in the run­ning to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia on the world stage. This month a panel of judges met in Bris­bane for a taste test­ing; Toowoomba, rep­re­sent­ing Queens­land, ver­sus the ACT-NSW, as part of the Water of Ori­gin com­pe­ti­tion. Af­ter as­sess­ing the sam­ples for clar­ity, odour and flavour the five ex­pert judges wasted no time declar­ing Toowoomba the win­ner. The na­tion’s over­all win­ner – with Tas­ma­nia de­fend­ing the ti­tle – will face off with other na­tions in a com­pe­ti­tion that high­lights the im­por­tance of ac­cess to safe drink­ing water and the work that goes into pro­vid­ing it. Each year, around the world more than 280,000 chil­dren un­der five years old die from dis­eases caused by dirty water and poor san­i­ta­tion, ac­cord­ing to Water Aid, a charitable or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing to bring safe water to com­mu­ni­ties in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. That’s al­most 800 chil­dren a day. In Aus­tralia, we con­sider ac­cess to safe drink­ing water a given with­out too much thought about where it comes from or the com­pli­cated pro­cesses that water goes through be­fore it reaches our tap. But the or­gan­i­sa­tion run­ning the Water of Ori­gin com­pe­ti­tion, the Water In­dus­try Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia, knows all too well keep­ing homes sup­plied with clean tap water is no sim­ple feat. The as­so­ci­a­tion works closely with the or­gan­i­sa­tions treat­ing water be­fore it gets to your tap and says the flavours of each town’s tap water are starkly dif­fer­ent, even if res­i­dents can’t tell the dif­fer­ence. As a judge, Dave Cameron – CEO of the Queens­land Water Direc­torate – has sam­pled more than 200 glasses of water from Aus­tralian towns since 2011. He says each has its own unique flavour, largely de­rived from the source of each com­mu­nity’s water. In­ter­est­ingly, he also says our pref­er­ence on flavour can of­ten be traced to child­hood mem­o­ries with the ex­pected flavour co­in­cid­ing with our pre­con­cep­tions of how water should taste. “Queens­land has di­verse water sources and each one comes with its own odour, flavour, ap­pear­ance and taste,” Mr Cameron said. “For ex­am­ple drink­ing water from the Great Arte­sian Basin can have a pun­gent smell. “It’s water that has been un­der­ground for thou­sands of years and it can be high in sul­phide which cre­ates a pretty or­di­nary smell. “Coun­cils take steps to re­move that smell but there isn’t much that needs to be done to make that water safe to drink.” Flavours that re­mind Mr Cameron of the rain­wa­ter he used to drink as a child vis­it­ing fam­ily friends will al­ways be his pref­er­ence, while one of his col­leagues prefers flavours that re­mind him of drink­ing out of the gar­den hose as a kid. “Bore water also has a re­ally dis­tinc­tive flavour,” Mr Cameron says. “The first time peo­ple drink it, they’re hit with a bit of a

musty flavour but that doesn’t mean it’s not per­fectly safe to drink.” In south-east Queens­land the most com­mon flavour is one with a bit of chem­i­cal tinge that is most likely a resid­ual flavour from the treat­ment process. Chlo­rine is used across the coun­try to re­move any harm­ful bac­te­ria and in the state’s cor­ner, flu­o­ride added to the sup­ply to com­bat tooth de­cay can be de­tected in a blind taste test. Even if the water that comes from your tap has a lit­tle chem­i­cal flavour, that doesn’t mean it isn’t safe to drink, Mr Cameron says. But fel­low judge Glyn Parry says a win­ning water sam­ple shouldn’t have a resid­ual chem­i­cal taste. “The sam­ple from the ACT had a bit of a metal­lic taste which is not what I would nor­mally like to drink,” said Mr Parry, from IXOM, a ma­jor water treat­ment sup­plier. “You get used to your cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment so if you are a per­son trav­el­ling of­ten you would no­tice the dif­fer­ent tastes.” ◗ The win­ning states from this year’s Water of Ori­gin Com­pe­ti­tion water taste tests will all be in­vited to sub­mit a sam­ple at the na­tional event in Launce­s­ton in Septem­ber and the win­ner will be able to have brag­ging rights for the next 12 months as Aus­tralia’s Best Tast­ing Tap Water.

PHOTO: FILE

◗ Dave Cameron from Qld Water, right, with QLD Op­er­a­tor of the Year

(Civil All Rounder) Glenn Cook, left, from Gladstone Re­gional Coun­cil at the 2017 Water of Ori­gin Com­pe­ti­tion.

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