CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Water from the Saratoga County Water Authority was voted the best tasting drinking water in the county Tuesday by a random selection of residents at a blind taste testing competition in Clifton Park.

The Best Tasting Drinking Water in New York State competition is held each summer in county and regional competitions. The Saratoga County competition was held July 23 in the lobby of the Southern Saratoga County YMCA in Clifton Park.

The winners of the county contests go on to regional competitions held around the state. Those winners will compete against each other at the State Fair in Syracuse next month.

In a blind sampling of approximately 45 residents who just happened to be walking through the YMCA lobby, Saratoga Water Authority’s product beat out water from the city of Mechanicville, the town of Wilton, and the Clifton Park Water Authority.

Anyone passing by can take the taste test. Each person who said they’d try it were asked to taste each sample and mark a ballot asking which one they’d found to be the best and which one they felt was second best. Each sample getting a vote for number one was given two points. Those chosen as second best were given one point.

Since it is such an unscientific contest and wholly dependent on the individual palates of those who agree to taste the samples, only the winner is announced. Final tallies are never divulged.

The idea for the Best Tasting Drinking Water in the state competition was started 33 years ago by now-retired DOH employee and Clifton Park resident Manoj Ajmera. On Tuesday he coaxed anyone walking by to try the water and cast a vote.

“I started it to put an emphasis on drinking water because we take it for granted,” Ajmera said. “It’s also a way to show some appreciation to the operators of the companies, the water suppliers because we take them for granted too.”

As his persuasion moved people to give the taste test a try, their comments about the competition gave an indication as to the wide range of individuals who were doing the sampling.

“Do I have to try all four,” asked one taster.

“It’s like tasting wine,” said another.

“Why taste all four,” asked a third hesitating at first. “Is there a bad one? I don’t want the bad one.”

The competition is now coordinated with the state by the Water and Wastewater and Outreach Committee. In Saratoga County, that committee partners with the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County on the local contest.  

Dakota Tarbell, an engineer with DOH, was one of two staff members from the agency’s Bureau of Water Supply helping man the table and keep track of the unmarked, chilled, water supplies. The Bureau of Water Supply is a member of the Committee.

“I send an email out to each county in the state about the contest in February,” he said. “There’s 62 counties in the state and about half participate. Some don’t have the manpower, or there simply aren’t that many water suppliers in that particular county. There are a couple of big counties that participate every year; Suffolk, Nassau, and Orange come to mind. They write me before I can write them asking if we’re doing it again this year.”  

As the taste testers at the YMCA finished their samples and marked their ballots several shared their reasons for making their choices.

“One of them had a sharper, purer taste. Something stood out. I’ll definitely go for that one,” said Steve Almasi as he filled out his ballot.

Aaron Ditch, membership director for the Capital District YMCA took the taste test as did several other YMCA staff members.

“For some reason the first one I tasted stuck out from the others,” Ditch said. “My vote was a gut decision.”

Ann White was another who took the taste test.

“The colder it was, the better it tasted,” she said. “They all tasted kind of similar to me.”

Lori Delehanty was another YMCA staff member who tasted the samples.

“I chose sample A because I didn’t taste any chemicals; it tasted sort of fresh to me,” she said.

“I tasted chlorine in one,” said Ray Lee of Halfmoon. “I chose (sample) C as the best. It had the cleanest taste.”

One of the last to take part during the 90-minute sampling was Paul Pagiotas.

“They all tasted the same to me,” he said. “That first one I tried seemed to taste the best, but maybe the people tasting next to me influenced my decision.”

After being voted the best-tasting drinking water in the county the Saratoga Water Authority product was to compete against the winners of local contests in Rensselaer, Schenectady, Montgomery and Albany counties in a regional competition on Thursday, July 25 in Albany as part of the Alive At Five concert.

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