Beaver Utah Award Winning Water

Beaver named town with best water in country


BEAVER - Rowland Yardley lifted a glass filled with water to his mouth and began drinking.

After a few gulps, Yardley placed the glass on the table, smacked his lips and triumphantly said, "That's the best-tasting water in the United States!"

He's not kidding.

Beaver won the National Rural Water Association's Great American Water Taste Test last week in Washington, an achievement that city leaders hope will lead to economic good times and nationwide publicity.

The Beaver City Council is planning to advertise the city's victory on billboards along Interstate 15 - Beaver is already a popular stopping point for travelers between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas - and the city hopes to entice a water bottling company to build a plant here.

"If you've ever lived somewhere that has bad water, you know that good water can carry a high price," said Mayor Leonard Foster, hinting that some people may decide to move to Beaver simply for the water. "This is quite an honor. To be the best in anything in the United States is a significant accomplishment."

Beaver emerged from a field of some 700 challengers in 47 states to earn the right to promote the best-tasting rural water in the nation. Beaver qualified for the national competition by defeating 46 other Utah cities and water systems to win state honors.

Water, much like wine, is judged on taste, smell and clarity.

"Our water is the best," said Deb Holcomb, an employee at Paice's Variety Store in downtown Beaver. "When I go out of town, I hardly ever drink the water."

Beaver is the first Utah entry to be recognized by the NRWA, whose mission is to provide its state associations with support services to meet the needs of its members. Mossy Head Waterworks of Florida placed second and Murdale Water District of Illinois was third.

"I think that as people find out about this, they'll come to Beaver to drink our water," said Yardley, the city council's foremost expert on water. "We're going to (promote) it on our signs and I think there'll be a lot of people who will say, 'Let's go try that water.'"

They already are, said Amanda William, a waitress at the Timberline Inn restaurant.

"Just yesterday I had people who came in and said, 'We just came to have the best water in the U.S.,'" she said. "Everybody wants to taste the water before they taste the pop."

Where's the water?

City Manager Steve Atkin and Yardley were awarded the NRWA's Gold Medal at an April 4 dinner ceremony.

A day earlier, however, Atkin and Yardley were worried Beaver would be forced out of the competition.

Before departing for Washington, Atkin loaded a cooler with a gallon jug and six smaller bottles of water from his kitchen tap. He mailed the cooler in a large packing box via UPS, which guaranteed delivery to his hotel by 8 a.m. Monday, about three hours before the deadline to enter water in the contest.

But UPS didn't deliver.

"Steve and I go downstairs at 8 o'clock, no water. Nine o'clock, no water. Ten o'clock, still no water," Yardley recalled.

After calling UPS, Atkin learned his package was on the way to the hotel. The box arrived at about 11 a.m., but there was another problem.

"It had my label on it but it wasn't my box," Atkin said.

Inside the box, which had mysteriously been re-packed by UPS, were the six smaller bottles of water. Atkin's cooler and gallon container were gone.

Foster joked that somebody had learned the contents of the box and stole Beaver's water.

Atkin came to a more likely conclusion.

"I'm suspecting that my gallon of water exploded and UPS had to re-pack the box," he said.

Although the NRWA preferred each city or water system to provide a one-gallon sample, the association made an exception. The next day, Beaver celebrated victory.

"We feel like we've brought home the gold medal," Yardley said.

What's in a name?

Now, Beaver officials will work to trademark a name for the city's water and patent it.

At some point, city leaders hope a water distribution company will take interest and decide to set up shop in Beaver, which is thirsting for better-paying jobs that could keep some of its young people from leaving town.

"I hope we explore it in depth and quickly," Councilman Gordon Roberts said of a potential deal with a water bottling company.

He added, "We knew we had the water. We just didn't know if we could convince anybody else."

A smile on his face, Yardley interjected, "Now the whole world knows."

Originally published April 12, 2006

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