I was recently asked whether the water in my adopted hometown of Memphis, TN, or that of my birthplace, Youngstown, Ohio was better. As it turns out, both municipalities deliver safe, clean drinking water. However, there are differences that lead to a different end product, different threats to the source water, and different taste. This comparison question is a good one because these two water products are vastly different. Let’s take a look.
The first photo shows a glimpse of the beautiful Meander Reservoir, the protected source of water for the greater Youngstown area. For sure, it looks pristine, cool, clean and healthy. People in Youngstown consider it one of their treasures, and rightly so. It is the source of life, health and economic benefit for the entire area. On the other hand, Memphis gets its water from a gigantic aquifer/artesian well that lies underground. It reportedly holds 100 trillion gallons, about the size of Lake Erie. A depictions of the aquifer can be seen in the Memphis Water Report.
With that said, let’s do a comparison. The comparison, based on Meander Reservoir (MR) versus Memphis Sand Aquifer (MSA) really applies to most surface water sources (Meander) versus groundwater sources.
- MR is an open body of water as such it is subject to regular pollution in the form of rain runoff, chemicals from the road, farms, and industry. MSR is underground, protected by a natural clay layer and a level of sand that provides a formidable barrier of natural filtration.
- MR must be treated with chemicals to account for algae, fungi, and other organisms. MSR does not require the addition of such chemicals.
- MR, being an open lake collects debris like pollen, dirt, leaves, and grass cuttings. Aluminum polymers (flocculants/coagulants) must be added to remove these materials. MSR, as most groundwater, does not require the addition of such taste-affecting polymers.
- MR contains about 170 mg/l of hardness. MSR contains 30 – 40 mg/l of hardness. Lower hardness means less volume of detergents, no scale build-up and never a need for water softening.
- MR changes with the seasons and the associated treatment of the water changes as well. Surface water quality fluctuates during the season and so may the perceived taste. MSR is not affected by seasonal changes, as such, like most groundwater, it is more consistent.
- MR has from time-to-time called for boil water alerts due to unexpected contamination. MSR is devoid of such excursions and has not suffered a boil alert in recent and distant history.
And so I end the comparison. I want to be very clear in my writing; both these water sources are safe, clean drinking waters. Citizens of both areas should consider themselves blessed. At the end of the day, however, due to lower contaminants, lack of seasonal fluctuations, lower hardness, and no need for coagulation/flocculation chemicals, the Memphis Sand Aquifer does, in fact, provide cleaner, safer, more stable drinking water than the Meander Reservoir does.
I will also throw in a pitch for Memphis Light Gas and Water for providing one of the best, most complete water analyses nationwide.