Sitka’s drinking water is officially “prize winning” on a national level. The city’s tap water, locally sourced from Blue Lake, won second place last week (6-14-22) at the American Water Works Association (AWWA) taste test competition. 

Environmental Superintendent Shilo Williams says Sitka was one of 26 finalists from the United States and Canada. In order to enter, competitors must first win their state or regional contests, and can’t have any drinking water violations on their record from the previous year. Sitka qualified after winning Alaska’s title. 

The contest took place at the AWWA national water industry conference in San Antonio, Texas. Williams shipped two one-liter glass bottles of Sitka water to the conference in a cooler, but her hopes were nearly dashed in a shipping disaster. 

“While I was there, I received an email from the contest coordinator that said our bottles had come broken,” Williams says. “So we were really bummed out about that. And I thought that was the end of it, and that we wouldn’t have a chance.” 

But the next day, Williams received word that only one of the bottles had broken, and they were back in the game. Three judges from the water industry tasted all 26 contestants samples.

“They certainly were taking their time, smelling and tasting the water and they were marking down their notes,” Williams says.

The judges then narrowed it down to five finalists, including Sitka, for a second round of sampling.

Judges do a taste test for the five finalists in the competition on June 14 in San Antonio (Photo courtesy of Shilo Williams)

Sitka placed second, just ahead of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. First place was Water One, an independent public water utility that serves Johnson County, Kansas. Water One also won the people’s choice award. Sitka didn’t enter that contest, because it would have required shipping a larger volume of water to Texas. 

Williams says it’s the first time they’ve entered the competition, and she believes it’s the first time an Alaska utility has placed in the event. 

“I’m really excited about it. But you know, it really has really nothing to do with me. It’s all about our great source water,” Williams says. “Blue Lake is a pristine water source. So we’re really lucky to have blue lake as our source water. I mean, it’s fantastic water just on its own. We provide very minimal treatment, low chemical addition.” 

Williams says she’s thankful for the dedication of city staff that ensure safe water is delivered to Sitkans.

“We couldn’t do this without them.”

Chief Water Operator Joe Swain and Environmental Superintendent Shilo Williams celebrate their win (Photo courtesy of Shilo Williams)