Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Pre-kindergartener Maggie Smith,3, drinks out of the water fountain at Cathedral School Friday afternoon. The City of Natchez was awarded the 2013 Best Water in Mississippi award by the Mississippi Rural Water Association. The water was judged based on odor, taste and clarity.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Pre-kindergartener Maggie Smith,3, drinks out of the water fountain at Cathedral School Friday afternoon. The City of Natchez was awarded the 2013 Best Water in Mississippi award by the Mississippi Rural Water Association. The water was judged based on odor, taste and clarity.

Good to the last drop: Natchez wins best water award

Published 12:04am Monday, April 7, 2014

NATCHEZ — The “best water in Mississippi” can be found flowing from taps in Natchez.

Natchez Water Works, owned by the City of Natchez, won the 2013 Best Water in Mississippi award last month  given annually by the Mississippi Rural Water Association.

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — pre-kindergartener Wells Linton, 4, drinks out of the water fountain at Cathedral School.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Pre-kindergartener Wells Linton, 4, drinks out of the water fountain at Cathedral School.

MsRWA Chief Executive Officer Kirby Mayfield said three judges evaluated the water based on clarity, odor and taste in the association’s annual water contest.

The contest was conducted at the MsRWA’s annual conference last week in Jackson, and Natchez competed against approximately 20 other water systems for the award.

The MsRWA is a nonprofit that provides training and technical assistance to rural water systems and municipalities around the state.

Natchez Water Works Superintendent David Gardner said the award was a great accomplishment and he attributed it the hard work of his staff and Water Plant Manager Lance Webb.

The city’s water comes from the Miocene aquifer that is 1,000 feet underground in the Morgantown area. Webb said it is “very high quality water.”

The water is pumped directly to the water treatment plant, aerated to release the carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide and then treated with chlorine and fluoride, Webb said.

“The result is good-tasting, odorless water,” he said.

The lack of metals or chemicals in the water compared to other systems or even Natchez’s previous water supply is responsible for the water’s good taste, Webb said.

When the city built the water plant in the mid-1990s, Gardner said, its location was chosen because of the aquifer and its water quality.

The plant replaced an approximately 60-year-old plant on Brenham Avenue where the water had to be treated with lime because it had manganese and iron in it.

The city’s water is tested daily, and the staff measures pH, chlorine and fluoride levels to ensure they’re kept within a certain range, Webb said.

Water Works took home second place in the 2009 water contest, but had never won first until this year.

“We’ve always known we’ve got quality water,” Gardner said. “Even before I came to work for Water Works, I had tourists and people in town come up to me and say, ‘You have the best tasting water here.’

“It’s nice to have an award to show that.”

Water Works now has the opportunity to compete in the National Rural Water Association’s water contest scheduled for February in Washington, D.C.

Gardner said the continued success of Natchez Water Works and the water treatment plant, which has scored perfectly the past two years on inspections by Mississippi State Department of Health’s Bureau of Public Water Supply, starts at the top with the water board and goes all the way to the employees taking samples.

“It takes the whole village to make it work,” he said.