Whistler may have its own brand of bottled water, and a state-of-the-art water treatment plant as well, but those weren't enough to put the resort on the podium when it came to awarding the top prize for best water in B.C.
That honour went to Kelowna this year.
"There was not a single glass of bad water there," said Robert LeCrom, the executive chef at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and one of the independent judges at the BC Water and Waste Water Association (BCWWA) annual conference in Whistler on Monday, May 5.
"It was very difficult to judge. There was one that was really crystal clear right from the start and it was still like that at the end. I was very impressed with that."
In her mayor's report at council on Tuesday, May 6, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden highlighted the 42nd annual conference and trade show, one of the largest in Western Canada, adding that conference attendees were offered tours of the municipality's water system.
"We work very hard to ensure that we have high water standards," she said, adding that Whistler's wastewater treatment plant is one of the most advanced in North America.
Acting Mayor Andrée Janyk, while disappointed that Whistler wasn't the clear winner said: "I know it's a very stiff competition, it's very seriously sought after. I'm sure we're among many great water communities... (and I'm) still very proud of our water.
"I'm always advising people: You just need to drink our tap water; it's great water."
Water samples submitted for the contest came from Whistler, Squamish, Penticton, Chilliwack, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, North Cowichan, Clearbrook, Kent, Kelowna and Campbell River.
The judging panel included LeCrom, Rosemary Smud, the vice president of the American Water Works Association, Sandra Roston, president of the Water Environment Federation and Robert Haller, the executive director of the Canadian Water and Waste Association.
Tanja McQueen, the CEO of the BCWWA, tallied the final score discovering that only eight points separated Kelowna from the lowest scoring water sample. The highest possible score was 120 points, with the scoring criteria based on appearance, aroma, taste, mouth feel, aftertaste and overall impression.
McQueen wouldn't reveal the full results, so only she knows Whistler's placement amongst the other communities in the contest.
"I think we have great water around the province and I know that the judges really agonized over the decision," said McQueen of the BCWWA contest. "I was looking at the score sheets and was amazed at how many scribbled out numbers there were and how close the contest was at the end of the day."
According to Whistler's 2012 annual drinking water report, the drinking water in Whistler has neutral pH, low turbidity and "excellent flavor and odour."
The quality of the water is so high that the only treatment it needs is disinfection through ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) and the addition of chlorine — the same type of treatments that Kelowna uses.
Microorganisms are killed in the UVGI process when short wavelength ultra violet light is passed through the water as it enters the resort's distribution system. Chlorine is added after that to ensure no harmful organisms make it to anyone's taps.
Much of Whistler's water, 49 per cent, comes from an intake on 21 Mile Creek. The other 51 per cent of the resort's water comes from 14 wells in various places around Whistler and from an intake on Blackcomb Creek. The Blackcomb Creek intake only operates in the winter months because there's too much silt in that creek's water the rest of the year.
In 2012, 5,348,095 cubic metres of water passed through Whistler's water system. The system handled 5,275,147m3 in 2011 and 5,699,320m3 in 2010.
Whistler's water is tested every two weeks at 37 different points along the system. The pH level is tested along with the temperature, the turbidity and, as well, the amount of chlorine in the water is measured. The water testers also measure for coliforms and E. coli.
The drinking water contest was held to mark drinking water week in B.C. from May 4 to 10.
McQueen said one of the objectives of the week is to get water users thinking about the water used every day and the value of the water.
The conference attracted 1,200 delegates from across the province and the Yukon.-With files by Alison Taylor
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