Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Favorite Tap Water: Cleveland, Ohio

Water quality is important in influencing the outcome of a brewed cup of tea. As I explained a long time ago, I recommend avoiding using bottled water for brewing tea. There are compelling reasons to use tap water instead, both from the standpoint of health and safety, and in terms of promoting sustainability and efficient resource use.

Even though I always use tap water to brew tea (sometimes filtered tap water, but always water that originates at the tap and never bottled water), I have definitely preferred the water in some places to others. My favorite water that I've ever tried was the tap water in Cleveland, Ohio, which is taken from Lake Erie, pictured below:

Beer, like tea, is also greatly influenced by water quality. This is one reason why the beers brewed by brewing companies like Iron Hill Brewery, which brew beers on-site at each of their brewpubs, taste different in different locations. I find it no coincidence that my favorite beers in the world, those produced by Great Lakes Brewing Company, are also produced with Lake Erie water. Lake Erie water gets a bad rap, because of the long history of pollution in and around Cleveland, and it may not be the cleanest or safest tap water to drink, but when it comes down to it, I think it tastes great.

When I lived in Cleveland, I did drink tea, but I was not as into it as I am now. I have not had much of an opportunity to brew tea using Cleveland's tap water, so I can't say how it performs for brewing tea. But I know that when I have visited, even just filling up a cup of tap water at someone's sink, it tastes so good; it's one of the many things I miss about living in Cleveland.

This is just one of my random personal opinions, however...if you want something just a tad more objective, I'd recommend reading Cities with best and worst tap water on Yahoo! Green. Cleveland ranked 72nd out of 100 on their list. However, this list was based on safety, not taste! I suspect that if the cities were ranked by taste, Cleveland would rank much higher on that list.

Update: Yahoo! took their article down for some unknown reason. Thanks to Gingko for pointing it out.


  1. Yes! I use filtered tap water, and it works great. Those bottles are very wasteful.

  2. I didn't find the article following the link. But in the version I saw, a city with best water is Boston. That makes me laugh. Boston got left-over water source from our region (central Mass) :-)

    Besides, the region I lived in previously (Syracuse, which gets water from Lake Skaneatles) has fabulous water. I think I am very lucky. As I don't drink much of flavored beverage, water is always one of the most important things in my life.

  3. Weird. Yahoo's article seems to have been taken down. I know I referenced it correctly because I saw a bunch of other pages linking to that same URL. Oh well.

  4. Alex. What a surprise. I cannot believe you just posted this! After six years of tea drinking here in Cleveland, I also concur that, YES, this water, post-filtered is quite decent for tea. It seems a bit on the hard side. I prefer it for puerh and rock oolong.

    From tap I think NYC has much nicer water. Not so sure how it is for tea.
    Here is a link to a picture I took of Cleveland's source, the "Five-mile Crib." 3.5 miles from shore.

  5. Wow...I've never seen that, thanks! =) To anyone curious, there's a good page on the Case website about Cleveland's Water System.

    It's interesting to read about "high rates" causing residents to get upset and push for action in the past. Nowadays, the water rates in Cleveland seem so low as to be almost negligible (especially when compared to the definitely-not-negligible heating costs). I'm personally a fan of higher water rates, and I think, everywhere I've lived in the U.S., with the exception of individual homes that had to pump water from a well (these were prohibitively expensive), the water has seemed to cost next-to-nothing, relative to electricity and heat.

    Even in San Diego, where water is scarce and heating costs are essentially zero, water costs were negligible relative to electric costs.

    1. Hi Alex. Since this deals with water, I guess it is tea related.
      Rates have gone up so much, consumption is down. So now they will need to raise rates more for lost income. No link now, but trust me on this one.

      Bottom line to high rates here is the cost for improving the sewer system to deal with excess rain. This thanks to EPA regulations. I for one am glad to pay more to not have to swim in poo.

      They have a history of huge billing/administrative problems. There were houses up and down the street getting new lines. That due to supposed leaky lines. It turned out it was really due to faulty billing. This as one new neighbor dug up her yard and found a three year old line!

      We took a tour of the Stokes plant this summer:
      Quite impressive. BIG filters! The employees were quite nice.

      Regardless, I still have no problems using this water to make some great tea. That after multiple side by side comparisons.

      Nice to hear you writing about our little region. Thanks.

    2. This stuff is really interesting for me to hear, I'm curious and I care a lot about the Cleveland area, as I feel connected to it having lived there for some time. I also have thought a lot about water systems, as I think a lot about sustainability and urban design.

      One extremely successful approach to storm sewer management and runoff control that I've seen is what Newark, Delaware did. They passed a very simple law: no one can modify any property in the city in any way that increases runoff. The law raises the cost of development. Developers looking to build more structures or pave more areas now need to add gravel drainage under the structure or pavement, or create a holding pond.

      This hasn't slowed new development at all in the city, because the total costs are relatively small for new construction. It probably has stopped a lot of people from paving new driveways though.

      But most importantly, it has allowed the city to have continued construction and economic development without the city having to increase its storm sewer system at all. I think this is an example of a great environmental solution because it keeps government small (there are no increased taxes and increased expenditures), it is preventive, and it encourages a best practice in development which not only has the benefit of keeping costs down for the city, but also preventing flooding downstream, as now, whenever it rains, there is less runoff.

  6. "Developers looking to build more structures or pave more areas now need to add gravel drainage under the structure or pavement, or create a holding pond."

    I believe we have something similar in the region. The issue here is sewage overflow during heavy rains. It exceeds the capacity of the plants and diverts directly into Lake Erie. One location is the cities main beach, Cleveland Lakefront State Park!

    Not exactly related, but,
    Fortunately we have had state-wide implementation of a wetland mitigation formula for a while now. Quality of wetlands approved for removal is assessed and calculated on a 3 to 1, 2 to 1, or 1 to 1 replacement (i.e. 30 acres of high quality wetlands removed would have to create 90 acres of wetlands, maybe in the same watershed(?))

    Our aging housing stock here (I believe) creates significant problems for urban design. University Circle is one bright star in our future.