BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The founder of the world's largest and longest-running water tasting competition says she's closing in on her goal of having sampled tap water from every U.S. state."It's like collecting the state quarters,'' Jeanne Mozier said as she gears up for the 23rd annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting competition on Feb. 23."We've had water from Tasmania but not Rhode Island, from Ecuador but not Oklahoma ... from South Korea but not South Dakota,'' Mozier said. "I want a full set of states.''Mozier recently put the word out that she was looking for more contenders before time to register ran out, and a North Dakota town stepped up. The entry from the Southwest Water Authority in Dickinsen, N.D., has cut the number of states yet to compete to just four -- Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Nevada and South Dakota.
"I don't know if there's this big rivalry between North and South Dakota,'' Mozier said, "but if there is ... South Dakota better perk up because they just got one-upped.''This year features two new international competitors as well. Submissions from Chile and Thailand bring the total number of nations that have competed to 44.Contest categories include municipal waters, purified drinking water, and still and sparkling bottled waters. Judges are trained by the event's longtime water master, Arthur von Wiesenberger, to rate every glass on appearance, aroma, taste, mouth feel and aftertaste.Last year, they declared tap water from Greenwood, British Columbia, the best tasting municipal water internationally. In the U.S., that honor went to St. Henry, Ohio.Other past municipal winners have included Los Angeles and Desert Hot Springs in California and Atlantic City, N.J.The event is held in an Eastern Panhandle town also known for its water.Natural warm springs produce water at 74.3 degrees, once attracting American Indians, settlers and George Washington.Washington, who first arrived in 1748, helped build Berkeley Spring's reputation as a getaway for the health-conscious. A stone bathtub serves as a monument to his visits.