There is an old saying that goes, ‘if you want to know about wood, ask a carpenter.’ There aren’t too many of these gems about water, but if there were you can bet that Pueblo’s Paul Fanning is the guy who’d know. He’s the town’s biggest booster on ‘all-things-water.’ This year, he’s more than happy to share, tell everyone within earshot of this amazing but usually taken for granted natural resource.
Fanning, Public Relations Director for Pueblo’s Board of Water Works---and the city---is waiting on the Denver-based American Water Works Association to announce which city in America has the best tasting water. Pueblo has been chosen as the state’s best water. The next challenge is being named the country’s best water. But the contest is about much more than judges opening a tap and sipping the water. It’s a science and, Fanning said, and “there are several criteria.”
It may come as a surprise to everyone except, perhaps, water judges, but each city’s water has its own unique character. Like sommeliers evaluate wine, the judges will consider smell, feel ---yes, said Fanning, water has a feel---and the minutiae of nature’s staff of life. It’s all, he said, “very subtle.”
Usually taken for granted, water also has qualities unknown to everyone except, perhaps, people paid to judge such things, said Pueblo’s ‘go to’ water guy. Indeed, the esoterica of blue-ribbon water are something only ultra-sensitive pallets will probably ever even think about until or unless something goes horribly wrong.
Taste and quality of water is no laughing matter as the water supply in Flint, Michigan, has taught us. Since 2014, Flint’s antiquated lead pipe water delivery system, along with decisions made by city and state officials, has created an enormous public health crisis for hundreds of thousands of people. Lead has long been linked to cognitive disorders. Pueblo, Colorado and most American cities have no such problem with their water.
Pueblo’s primary water source is the Arkansas River, said Fanning. But a portion of what is consumed is “diverted from the Western Slope.” Both supplies empty into the Pueblo Reservoir before treatment. “Our treatment plant uses conventional methods.” Making the water safe for public consumption involves removing particulates, including twigs and organisms deemed unhealthy. The water is treated with “a mixture of chlorine and ammonia.” The chlorine later evaporates. There are also trace amounts of fluoride in the water.
Despite Fanning and the city’s pride in Pueblo’s water, there are no plans to bottle and sell it. “Bottling water would not be cost effective,” he said. Putting to rest the belief that bottled water is better, Fanning said it just doesn’t make sense---economically or practically---to bottle Pueblo’s or any other city’s water. In fact, “there are higher standards for public water than bottled water.”
Should Pueblo’s water be declared the nation’s best, it would join Greeley in the select category of winners in this annual aqua fina challenge. The city best known for beef, barley and all-things-agriculture won 2017’s top honors for North America’s best tap water.
While no huckster, Fanning doesn’t miss many opportunities to tout Pueblo’s water. While it’s not city tap water that irrigates Pueblo farms, there is a connection. “Source water does contribute to high quality of crops,” he said only half-jokingly. The best example, Pueblo’s chili, the town’s most famous agricultural commodity. But Pueblo water, he added, is also the main ingredient in one of the town’s newest ventures---beer. The town’s lately been experiencing a mini micro-brewery boom.
Should Pueblo win the designation of best water, it won’t be the first time it’s been recognized for its water. In awarding the nation’s highest medal for gallantry in 1953 to Raymond “Jerry” Murphy, President Eisenhower quipped, “What is it in the water out there in Pueblo? All you guys turn out to be heroes.” The city boasts four Medal of Honor recipients.
The Eisenhower-Pueblo story is one Fanning swears never gets old or told too often.