Nothing never tasted quite so sweet

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

When your governor seeks the presidency, it’s reassuring to know your lieutenant governor can replace him in New Mexico’s most important times.

And the other times too.

My e-mail inbox was flooded Monday night with a variety of press releases. The one that got my attention features Lt. Gov. Diane Denish as a water taste-tester. The New Mexico Drinking Water Taste Contest is scheduled for 6:30 tonight in Albuquerque, and Denish is one of three who will judge what tap water tastes the best from five nominated systems in the state. I can only assume Gov. Bill Richardson will be out of the state, as I can see no other reason he wouldn’t handle this himself.

A contest sponsor is shelling out $1,500 for the winner, who will head to the national contest in Washington. I can only imagine the enthusiasm for the Beltway journalist covering the Great American Water Taste Test this April. (“The other 49 water samples tasted like nothing,” the judging panel said in a statement, “but the winning sample tasted more like nothing than anything we’ve ever tasted.”)

While I like creating incentives for municipalities to provide clean drinking water, I think we’re only proving Americans are too picky about water.

One of my co-workers got a visit from her in-laws recently, and her father-in-law was on a diet including spring water. When she was making waffles one morning, he insisted she make the batter with a cup of spring water, not tap water. I guess I can see his point. After all, why have waffles made with eight ounces of a beverage with no calories, no fiber and no vitamins when you can instead have waffles made with eight ounces of a beverage with no calories, no fiber and no vitamins? It’s all about peace of mind.

Peace of mind, plus power of suggestion. Penn Gillette and Teller discussed that in their series on Showtime (I can’t tell you the title in this article; just Google it). They invited restaurant customers to an exquisite bottled water taste test. People elaborated on the vast differences, and later discovered every bottle had been filled with a garden hose behind the restaurant.

Most vending machines charge $1 for a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina (actual marketing slogan: “So pure, we promise nothing.”). By this rate, Americans happily pay $6.40 per gallon for the most abundant resource on Earth and vote people out of office when gasoline is half that expensive.

There are some instances where having packaged water is necessary. I buy distilled water for ironing and sometimes for drinking, and it paid off last year when a water main broke in Portales and I could take a rudimentary shower without running water. We’re considering paying nearly $500 million for the Ute Water Project, but that’s the difference between drinking water and water that could give us diseases.

In most instances, however, we’re probably choosing nothing and paying everything. That’s a problem that should be solved by us, not President Richardson or Gov. Denish.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: