Tucumcari water wins taste test

How sweet it is.

The water, that is, in Tucumcari.

Tucumcari’s water was named the grand prize winner for drinking water in a “taste off” this week by the New Mexico Rural Water Association.
The city’s water was judged on clarity, bouquet and taste, said Charlie Sandoval, director of the city’s Water Department who brought the good news back Friday.

“I’ve always told people our water was good,” said Sandoval, a 26-year veteran of the water department.

“It was a blind test,” in a competition with waters from other cities throughout New Mexico, Sandoval said.

A sample of Tucumcari’s water was one of five that made the last round of tests. “I was happy to be in the top five,” said Sandoval, who remembers thinking that the winner would probably be from a snowcapped town in northern New Mexico. “You know some place that would be in a Coors commercial.”

And then Tucumcari won.

John Sutherland, city manager, and Sandoval were all smiles Friday, as they showed off the city’s awards. They were also joking that maybe the city should bottle it and sell it.

And what makes the recognition all the more surprising is that the city has, over the past year, had to blend its water from several different well fields to meet environmental standards for the amount of uranium contained in the water.

Sandoval said he was very unceremonious about the city’s entry. He took the sample from the tap at a friend’s house, west on Cemetery Road, and collected it in a quart glass canning jar.

The water from this area comes from the Hoover and Five-Mile Park well fields.

Now, the city’s water will be taken to Washington, D.C. where it will be entered in The Great American Water Taste Test, sponsored each year by the National Rural Water Association.

At the meeting, not only was Tucumcari’s water recognized, but Sandoval was honored, for a second time as the water operator of the year in the large systems category, which consists of systems with 500 connections up to 50,000.

“There are nine guys in the department, and none of this would have been possible without them. They work 24/7 and they are really dedicated,” Sandoval said.