ATLANTA -- Cartersville has the best-tasting drinking water in Georgia, according to the first statewide competition among water systems.
A four-judge panel of taste testers awarded first prize to Cartersville on Thursday in the contest sponsored by the Georgia Water and Pollution Control Association.
The judges gave Cartersville 29 points, just ahead of second-place Douglasville with 27 points. Barnesville finished third with 24 points, to 19 for Savannah and 18 for Macon.
Each of the five finalists had to win a regional competition to qualify for Thursday's finals.
"There is no bad water entered in the contest," said Michael Coon, Savannah's water operations administrator. "We made it one step beyond the beginning having won in our district, so we were happy to come here."
The judges chosen to sample Georgia's finest drinking water were: Atlanta-area radio station personality Matt Jones; Mike McGhee, regional water management director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Harold Reheis, director of the state's Environmental Protection Division; and state Rep. Steve Cash, R-McDonough.
After some initial jokes and admonitions not to drink the cold water too fast, the four settled into some serious judging, swishing the water around in their mouths and savoring its bouquet, as if it were fine wine. Mr. Reheis held a sample up to the light for a closer look.
"This is a hard job," he said.
Mr. Coon said Savannah's recipe for success is the Floridan Aquifer, which runs beneath coastal Georgia.
"I think there's a taste difference between ground water and surface water," he said. "We're blessed with a pristine aquifer."
But there's apparently also something to be said for mountain water. Cartersville gets its drinking water from Lake Allatoona in hilly northwest Georgia.
Contest sponsors took a scientific approach toward the competition. All of the water samples were kept in the same refrigerator and transported in the same cooler prior to the test.
"We wanted to try to eliminate temperature as an aesthetic quality and let taste be the only factor," said Eric Osborne, water quality supervisor in Clayton County and host of Thursday's awards ceremony.
Cartersville received a certificate and plaque in recognition of its first-place showing.