SUMAS - The man in charge of the city's water always knew it tasted good. Now he knows just how good.
The Sumas Water Department won the 12th annual drinking-water taste test, held Aug. 29 by Evergreen Rural Water of Washington at its fall conference in Vancouver, Wash.
Utilities Supervisor Rod Fadden, who has worked for Sumas for 28 years, has been attending the conference every year but hadn't entered the competition until this year, on a whim.
"I'm just going to enter that water-tasting contest because I know we've got some really good water," Fadden told himself at the conference.
The field was small, with only seven entrants this year. Usually, about 20 water providers enter the contest, Evergreen Executive Director Tracey Hunter said.
Even so, Sumas was up against Mountain View-Edgewood of Pierce County, which won the most recent national taste test. After Sumas and Edgewood tied in the first round, Sumas won a taste-off.
That sends Sumas to the national competition, to be held Feb. 13, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
"We beat the national winner," Fadden said. "I think we're looking pretty good to take the national championship next year."
Evergreen is a nonprofit that provides training, technical support and advocacy to small municipal providers and homeowners associations. In many cases these smaller utilities, including Sumas, have a taste advantage because their well water isn't treated with chlorine, Hunter said.
"That's huge because you can always taste the chlorination in the water," she said.
Asked to explain what makes Sumas' water taste so good, Fadden was initially at a loss for words.
"I could just send you a bottle," he said.
But then he said, "It just has a really good, wholesome, clean, unadulterated taste to it."
The Sumas Water Department has 515 connections and also serves Nooksack and two rural water systems.