In a state almost completely surrounded by water, a gallon-sized sample of Collier County's tap water was crowned this week the best tasting in Florida.
At the Florida Water Resources Conference in Orlando, judges advanced Collier's water to the second round of competition, including it with three other finalists from 12 regions. In the second round, three judges unanimously agreed that Collier County water was the most delicious in Florida.
"It's a pretty rigorous thing to get there," said Paul Mattaush, Collier County water department director. "We're the Miss America of waters, I guess."
To qualify for the competition, all participating water utilities from the 12 regions submitted a gallon of water taken from their distribution systems no more than 24 hours before judging. All water was kept room temperature to help judges more easily pick up on distinctive odors and tastes.
In Collier, the water is a half-and-half mix of fresh water and water produced with reverse osmosis, Mattaush said.
"It does make a very high-quality product," he said.
At Sea Salt restaurant on Third Street South in Naples, diners sometimes ask if they can taste the tap water before they upgrade to bottled water, manager Liset Celya said.
"We always offer our guests bottled water, but some of them have commented that the tap water tastes better," she said.
Daniel Lockie, a cook and server at Fred's Food, Fun & Spirits on Immokalee Road, said he prefers the taste of local tap water to those of other places he has lived.
"It tastes a lot different than in California and Maryland. Better," he said. "It's all about the ecosystem and the minerals."
Collier County's water sample will next advance to a national competition in Dallas as part of an annual conference hosted by the American Water Works Association in June.