OWASA: Our water just as good as the bottled stuff

OWASA lab analyst Monica Sherbrook runs tests several times a week for specific amounts, if any, of phosphorus, iron and aluminum in the drinking water at the OWASA Water Treatment Plant Laboratory. OWASA is considering a promotional campaign touting its taste and quality.

By LISA HOPPENJANS, STAFF WRITER

CHAPEL HILL -- Dasani drinkers and Aquafina fans, the Orange Water and Sewer Authority has an alternative to those convenient, sized-to-quench bottles with the fancy labels.

And it's as close as your kitchen faucet.

As bottled-water sales burgeon, the OWASA board is considering a resolution to promote its tap water as an inexpensive, clean and tasty source of drinking water.

The board has also discussed distributing tough, reusable plastic bottles for carrying OWASA water and working with Chapel Hill and Carrboro to install drinking fountains in downtown areas.

"People drink bottled water because it's convenient," board member Terri Buckner said. "If we can figure out how to make OWASA water more convenient, we can challenge the bottled-water industry indirectly."

OWASA's water several times has won a state taste test of public water, and OWASA was one of only nine water treatment plants nationwide this year to be recognized by the Partnership for Safe Water for exceeding various water quality standards and industry guidelines.

"We realize this is an issue which we could help the people in the community with," said Marc Marcoplos, chairman of the authority's board. "We have very high-quality water, and it's many, many times cheaper than bottled water."

The board took up the issue at the request of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Community Church of Chapel Hill. The league had sought a resolution condemning the bottled-water industry for what it said were environmental and social justice problems.

The resolution asked the board to "undertake an educational campaign to promote the consumption of tap water instead of bottled water, and to educate the general public on the global issues surrounding water privatization."

Most board members weren't willing to do that. A draft resolution that OWASA staff presented to board members earlier this month simply recognizes the quality and value of OWASA water and "encourages OWASA customers to get information about the quality of OWASA water" from the authority's Web site, annual report card and staff.

Contact staff writer Lisa Hoppenjans at 932-2014 or lhoppenj@nando.com

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