Take the Milwaukee Challenge: Milwaukee vs. Waukesha water
If things look a little greener around here this April, there's a good reason. Our editorial staff is busy expanding the ideals of Earth Day into a month-long celebration of energy conservation, alternative transportation, recycling tips and about a million ways you can be a better friend to the planet. Welcome to Green Month, Milwaukee.
To celebrate Green Month, we decided to put our most precious resource to the test. And going against toe to toe with Milwaukee's water? Eau de Waukesha.
This challenge also has a timely component with water battles becoming more and more of an issue around the world, including right here in Southeast Wisconsin.
Here are some quick facts about each municipal tap water:
According to the Waukesha Water Utility's 2006 consumer confidence report, "Waukesha Water is drawn from eight active sandstone wells, ranging from 1,660 to 2,266 feet deep. The sandstone aquifer consists of layers of sandstone that vary in water yielding properties. While no one knows the exact path the water takes to get to our wells, we do know that the majority of our water enters the aquifer from lands near and beyond the western border of Waukesha County. The water level of the aquifer continues to drop, and the quality no longer meets federal and state standards, requiring more treatment." (We sampled Waukesha utility water, not water from a residential well.)
Meanwhile, according to the Milwaukee Water Works Web site, "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed Milwaukee's drinking water (which is drawn from Lake Michigan. -ed.) as among the highest quality in the nation. Milwaukee's decision to invest in ozone disinfection and continuous monitoring of process control parameters and water quality characteristics using online instrumentation has paid off for consumers who rely on a low-cost supply of safe drinking water." (We sampled water out of the taps in our Milwaukee office.)
With a single dissenter, the OnMilwaukee.com editorial staff was ga-ga for the hometown agua, and here's why ...
Pick: Milwaukee Water Works
I think I learned that Milwaukee had hard water from an '80s Zest soap campaign that claimed something to the effect of, "It's hard to get clean in hard water, and you're in a hard water town, Milwaukee." I was raised on our city's tap water -- no Brita, no fancy sink filtration system, just straight from the faucet (or the hose when I was young enough to think that was no different than getting it from the kitchen) -- and came to accept it as the best. Sips from my grandparent's Brookfield supply were met with disgust, as I could never figure out how anyone could drink water that not only tasted soapy, but that literally left hazy stains on the glassware.
Although the Waukesha water we sampled today was as clear as any I've ever seen, that distinct filmy softness is still present, and I couldn't get past the iron-like after taste. The Milwaukee water, on the other hand, was as crisp as it has always seemed to me over the years. Maybe it's mineral-ridden, but I can't tell anymore at this point. It just tastes like home.
Pick: Waukesha Water Utility
I live in a house with a well, so I'm not really used to "city" water and I wasn't sure what to expect in this challenge. When you think about the vast differences between Milwaukee and Waukesha, you' d expect that to carry over into the water supply. It doesn't. In terms of color, texture and taste, the differences between these two samples were negligible. The Waukesha water had just the slightest hint of chlorine and the Milwaukee sample tasted a bit more mineral-y. They were both fine. If I had to choose, I'd go with Waukesha -- in part because I know the city-dwellers in the office are going to "represent" by choosing Milwaukee.
The main thing this test showed me was how ridiculous it is to spend $1.49 on a bottle of water when you can get it virtually free right out of the tap. (I'm going to start imagining Grandpa paying for water ... or TV, for that matter). It's time for me to start carrying around reusable plastic bottles from home.
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Another reason not to buy bottle water, and another vote for Milwaukee water, is that for the last few years the City of Milwaukee has been selling Lake Michigan water to the Coca-Cola Bottling Company to use in their Dasani bottled water brand. Why buy it, when you can drink it for free from the tap.
There's a bigger problem with Waukesha water than just the taste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that radium in public drinking water cannot exceed 5 picocuries per liter of water. Waukesha city water exceeds 10 picocuries per liter of radium - so according to the EPA, it's not safe.
Julie, not sure Brookfield and Waukesha water come from the same source. I looked at the link briefly and couldn't find the answer. The site looks like the audience is directed at the city specifically though, not Waukesha county.
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