State takes a different Origin
Fresh look at our most basic staple shows there’s a lot happening between rain and glass
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.
◗ 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.