Isle tap water measures up to world's best


POSTED: Monday, June 15, 2009

A few years ago, while dining at a beachfront restaurant in Waikiki, the waiter asked what we wanted to drink.

When I said water he asked, “;What kind of water?”;

Not being a fan of Perrier, I said, “;Just water.”;

Once it was established that I preferred flat water, he went through his list of nonbubbly waters and started waxing poetic about this one natural, artesian water that came from the purest sources of the Pacific thousands of miles away from civilization.

These waters were so pure and so pristine, they were “;untouched by human hands,”; he said.

It was none other than Fiji water. He insisted that we try it.

Finally, we said OK.

So the waiter brought out this Fiji water in a fancy, silver decanter packed with ice. He opened it with white, gloved hands as if it were a rare bottle of wine and poured it into our glasses.

That fancy 1-liter bottle of Fiji water served to us from a silver decanter cost $8, and it did taste good, and so was the sunset view, the entire meal and ambience. You also could walk into a 7-Eleven today and pick up the same bottle on sale for $1.99.

Here's the deal: While there are numerous brands of water to choose from, it should be perfectly fine to order up a glass of Honolulu's municipal tap water in a high-end restaurant. If you need to spell it out, just say, “;Tap water, please,”; and specify whether you want it with ice or no ice.

Some restaurants automatically give you a glass of tap at the table — with free refills.

That's not to say that you shouldn't go for the Fiji water or Evian, Voss or Perrier, if you want to, because that's your prerogative as a consumer.

There have been taste testings of bottled waters versus municipal waters (some swear they can taste a difference; others can't). Also, some brands claim to be better than the others, whether it's the source, the purification process, a special pH balance or certain minerals.

There are many reasons people buy water, one of which is that it's convenient to drink on the go (though water in a reusable steel container is becoming more green and more hip) and also, because in some municipalities, the water actually tastes funny or isn't safe to drink.

But I don't want to dredge up the years-long bottled-versus-tap water debate here. It's a debate that's been taking place over dining tables for years — from San Francisco to Paris. The “;Take Back the Tap”; campaign spearheaded by a group called Slow Food Nation in San Francisco last year caused several city restaurants to buy carbonation machines so they could serve bubbly tap water.

The point being made here is that in tough times there's no shame in turning down fancy water.

The bottled-water industry is a global, multibillion-dollar concern, and the largest beverage corporations — PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Nestle — have all gotten into the act.

And it's evolved. Now there are also flavored waters, vitamin-enhanced waters, even ethical water (buy a bottle of Ethos at Starbucks and it'll go to help children around the word get access to drinkable water).

In Hawaii, though, we are fortunate.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply and state Health Department conduct thousands of tests on the water, checking for more than 100 different types of contaminants, as required by the EPA.

“;The bottom line is it's safe,”; said Honolulu Board of Water Supply spokesman Kurt Tsue.

Truth be told, Hawaii bottled water also holds marketing power because we live in paradise. I bet you somewhere on the mainland, another waiter's giving the same pitch for a Hawaii water.

We have brands here claiming our water is the purest in the world, and our own unique industry of desalinated water drawn from the depths of the ocean off the Kona Coast.

Our water supply comes from abundant rainfall over the Koolaus, which filters down through layers of porous lava rock into an underground aquifer over a 25-year span.

You can get this same water at a fancy restaurant. Just say, “;Tap water, please.”;


”;Here's The Deal”; helps consumers stretch dollars in these tough economic times. It runs every other Monday. Contact Nina Wu at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).