ST. GEORGE — One of the biggest gatherings of water system operators in the state met at the Dixie Convention Center last week for an annual conference to recognize excellence among their fellows. And to determine who had the best tasting water in all of Utah.

Judges at the 2024 Rural Water Association of Utah’s annual conference held at the Dixie Convention Center test the three finalist for the best tasting water in the state, St. George, Utah, March 1, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It’s an annual tradition for rural water agencies through the nation,” Jacob Sharp, president of the Rural Water Association of Utah, told reporters following the conclusion of the conference. “Anyone in the state who’s a member of the association can being a sample of their water down. Unbiased judges do a taste test and determine the winner.”

One of the judges, Kristi Bell who is the chair of the Utah Division of Drinking Water board, said picking the best water was a challenge.

“It’s hard to tell the difference between the three that you’re tasting,” she said of the qualities considered by the judges, which include clarity, smell and taste of the water. “They all seem about the same. There are very small differences between all of them. They all taste great.”

This year’s winner was the Bear River Water Conservancy District. Following in second and third place were the Simplot Vernal Phosphate Mine and Richfield City.

The three water system operators were the finalists selected from 30 entries this year. Officials from the winning water agency will go with the association to Washington D.C. next year for the National Water Rally, where their water will be entered into a national taste test, Sharp said.

Water from Beaver City won the national taste test in 2006.

Toquerville Public Work Director Jadee Adams was recognized as the Water Operator of the Year by the Rural Water Association of Utah for 2023, St. George, Utah, March 1, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

During the portion of the conference that saw members being recognized in various capacities, Southern Utah was represented twice by Jadee Adams, Toquerville’s public works director and Rick Wixom, the current town manager and former mayor of Springdale. Adams was named the association’s Water Operator of the Year for 2023. Wixom was recognized for his 15 years of service, which included being a former president of the association.

Now, just what is the Rural Water Association of Utah? It is a group made of officials from hundreds of rural, municipal, county and other types of water and waste water systems from across the state. Around 1,700 employees from these various agencies were estimated to attend the annual conference held in St. George.

Among the water association’s primary goals is providing to training water system operators and continuing education for those with certifications related to the field. It also provides technical assistance and system maintenance to member agencies as needed.

Sharp added that a big part of what the association does involves lobbying for the state’s water operators.

“A big function of the association is advocating with the state legislature,” Sharp said. “Helping to get bills and things approved that are going to help water systems out and not hurt them.”

Rural water systems in Washington County, along with cities like St. George, Hurricane, Toquerville and others, as well as the Water County Water Conservancy District, are each members of the Rural Water Association of Utah.

Photo Gallery

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.