The C-ville drought survival guide

Daily we have waitedby the fax machine for a dousing of the region’s bad news, expressed in terms of percents and millions of gallons: 54.2, 7.091; 53.2, 6.905. These are, of course, the terms of the drought (reservoir level and regional usage), which, even after a healing, gentle rain, have not fundamentally changed since August. Charts, graphs, Wet Ones and paper plates…Will this disposable reality never end?

You’ve heard of chronic fatigue syndrome? We’re all in danger of contracting crisis fatigue syndrome.

Let it never be said, however, that C-VILLE shirks its public duty. (We might redefine it once in a while, but that is another matter.) To that end, we present this week a partial guide to getting through the water shortage with, we hope, your good humor intact. We have put together some of the region’s finest minds to celebrate our arid condition, be it through a liberating session of shrub-hydrating outdoor urination or a new stick of floral-scented underarm deodorant. Also in our guide: the truth about bottled water. We taste-tested two dozen varieties so you won’t have to.

And then there are the hearty artists behind the newly mounted Fringe Festival, who, like desert cactuses, have kept the concept of "wet" (this year’s curatorial theme) tucked deep inside while they deal with dry conditions on the outside.

Rounding out our survival guide on page 63, Natalie Estrellita wrestles with many of the crisis’ imponderables: If we’re running low on water, she slyly inquires, is it still possible to tap dance?

Liquid Diet

C-VILLE’s experts put the bottled water regime to the test

Drought conditions may be plaguing the area’s aquifers,but inside local supermarkets there’s a flood of bottled choices. To do your part you know you should be drinking water from a plastic jug, but which one? Bottled water ranges in price from 50 cents to $1.60 per gallon, but you can’t choose simply on the basis of that because your taste buds don’t care about the cost.

Still, between rushing to the waterless car wash and striding the length of the Downtown Mall to find the one restaurant that will still let the public use its lavatories, not to mention collecting soapy dishwater to feed your scrawny houseplants, who has time to try the many varieties of pre-packaged potables?

Never fear: C-VILLE Weekly has assembled a crack team of highly trained aqua-logists to test 28 varieties of non-flavored, non-carbonated bottled water under strict laboratory conditions. Each of our eight panel members tasted the samples blindly. Between tastes, they were offered a palate cleanser of the most pristine variety: Molson’s. The water experts were not permitted to leave the room until the entire assortment was sampled, which, in time, gave a second meaning to the notion that they were holding water.

Kroger Drinking Water

Isn’t it all "drinking" water, you wonder? In a manner of speaking, yes, but what distinguishes Kroger’s variety is that it’s, and we quote, "from a municipal source." Our judges’ comments included "It tastes kind of thick;" "It has a bad bottom note to it;" and "It tastes like a fleece sweater."

Triton Purified Drinking Water

"Tested daily, exceeds all standards" proclaims the label. While it didn’t earn the resounding thumbs-down of the Kroger variety, it wasn’t exactly a runaway hit, either: "This tastes like something that would hang around in my cat’s bowl for days;" "It has flavor;" and "I have a hair in mine" were among the comments.

Food Lion Drinking Water

Also bottled at a municipal source (from Abington, according to the label), this water prompted some of the judges to break into the theme song from Caddyshack . One declared it was "better than Evian." Another said it was "pungent."

Giant Filtered Drinking Water

Here’s your source, Charlottesville: The "Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Water Supply." And here is the comment from your panel of taste-testers: "It tastes like it should." Go figure.

Harris Teeter Purified Drinking Water

North Carolina drinking water at its finest, this stuff was a certified loser: "Absolutely horrible;" "bitter;" and "rancid," were representative comments. Finally, one judge broke her silence: "Can I have a palate cleanser?" she asked.

Dasani Purified Water

This Coke product is "enhanced with minerals for a pure, fresh taste." And while one analyst declared its aftertaste to be "clingy," everybody else gave it a 10.

Aquafina Purified Drinking Water

And, in this corner, the Pepsi entry into the water field. Also highly appreciated by the panel of experts, this one was said to have "the least foreign flavor."

Charlottesville Municipal Water

It seemed only fitting that we should add City water to the mix, but we sure couldn’t slip it past our experts. "It’s chlorinated," they exclaimed, "it tastes like pool water." "This is definitely City water," said one, "and I’m going to need a lot of palate cleansing after this."

Amelia Springs Water

Drawn from an underground source in Amelia, this stuff was a hit in the office, er, lab. Among the judges’ remarks: "No aftertaste;" "I like this one;" and "Throw it in the back of your mouth, swish it around and you’ll taste the snow."

Deer Park Natural Spring Water

The source is Hoffman Spring in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, and the positive comments were unanimous. "It’s simple and clean," said one taste-tester.

Shenandoah Spring Water

Straight from the Valley, it was one judge’s favorite because it "had the least taste of all." To which another connoisseur added, "It tastes like light beer."

Dannon Natural Spring Water

Funny, not one person suggested it tasted like yogurt.

Iceland Spring Natural Spring Water

Ranking dead last among the international contingent, this spring water, which proclaims itself "from the virtually untouched land of the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights," was deemed to "taste like paint." The general consensus: "Yuck." 

Canadian Naturelle Spring Water

Everybody now: "Blame Canada, blame Canada." Really, it’s not Canadians’ fault if they cannot defend their own national borders. But what explains the taste of this water? "It’s funky," said one analyst. "It’s moldy," said another. One person declared it "halfway decent," and another began to complain of bloating.

Evian Natural Mineral Water

It may be "from the Alps," but our team thought it was more like Alpo. "Nasty, nasty, nasty!" "It has a bad back taste." "It tastes like YMCA showers."

Volvic Natural Spring Water

Also from France, the name of this product, when revealed, provoked a lot of gynecological puns that would be inappropriate for a family newspaper. Not quite as reviled as its Gallic compatriot, this water earned a couple of murmurs of "It’s OK," along with the question, "Did you pee in this?"

365 Spring Water

365 is the store brand for Whole Foods Market and its spring water is from Harpersfield, New York. There was nothing special to report about what most agreed was a neutral water. One person labeled it "flat." Another said "I can taste the corporate mind-control devices in this one," but we think maybe a peek at the label prompted that remark.

Poland Springs Natural Spring Water

It’s actually from Maine, not Poland, but one smarty-pants (we really think this guy was peeking) announced, "This one tastes Polish." We have no idea what that means, but another very finicky expert called it her favorite. "It tastes how water should taste," she said.

Laure Pristine Spring Water

We think the palate cleanser must have been getting to the judges by the time they tasted this product of the Great Smoky Mountains, because one said it was "a little oakey, a little buttery."

Kroger Spring Water

The spring in question is located in Richmond and the taste, according to the experts, was simultaneously "very neutral," "better than swamp water" and "kind of metallic."

Giant Natural Mountain Spring Water

Three separate Pennsylvania springs supply the water that was disliked by all and described by one as "hot tub water."

Pocono Springs Pure Mountain Spring Water

Another entry from Pennsylvania, this one fared no better with our judges. "Tastes like chemicals," said one.

Harris Teeter Natural Spring Water

North Carolina is the source, which one taste-tester declared superior in principle to France. "It tastes better than Evian," she said.

Food Lion Pure Spring Water

The label does not reveal the source of the lion’s fluid, but one person opined that it "tastes like water at the beach."

Triton Spring Water

What is it about North Carolina and water? Sometimes we love it, sometimes we don’t. The taste was described as "sweet," "organic" and "earthy."

Crystal Springs Spring Water with Fluoride

The water comes from Georgia, but there’s no word on the source of the fluoride. It was described as "tart" and tasting like "tap water." Duh!

Trinity Natural Mineral Dietary Supplement

The water is "collected" in Idaho, according to the label, and it should remain out west, according to our folks. Summing up, one person slyly declared it was "WNRN water." Ha ha.

Fiji Natural Artesian Water

Packaged in a lovely floral bottle and hailing from Viti Levu, this exotic libation inspired divergent remarks. "It has a bitter aftertaste," one expert said. "I feel like I’m getting the most nutrition from this one," said another.

Bathe less – smell better!

How to disguise the drought’s personal effects on a budget

My friend "Lynn" showers twice a day. She keeps a stock of Victoria’s Secret body lotions, Bumble & Bumble fragrant conditioners, Bath & Body Works moisturizing sprays, designer colognes and various deodorants cluttered around her bathroom for any time she deems necessary to "freshen up." It takes her most of the day before she’s ready to leave. My other friend "Ryan" bathes as infrequently as possible. He proudly sports the scent of "ew, de Ryan," and people generally know he’s coming before they hear or see him. Most of those who share his philosophy prefer to live free and wild and "how nature intended us to be."

Considering the current drought conditions, I admire the restraint Ryan shows in water usage. He always seems happy and comfortable. At the same time, I notice the way Lynn draws people to her – how nostrils seem to dilate in her presence. My budget constraints prevent me from emulating her spending habits on toiletries, but my social desires stymie me from accepting Ryan’s routine. I have $20.02 for products that will simultaneously reduce water consumption and still let me feel as sanitary as a cotton ball dipped in alcohol.

I’m on a mission. My first stop is a local grocery store. Apparently, somebody had the bright idea of enlarging those fun travel wipes into portable antibacterial washcloths for the entire body. A pack of 32 costs $2.59, so I can stock up on an eight-month supply. I can hardly wait to bust one open and swash myself from head to toe like I’m waxing a finely tuned vehicle. Vroom!

Speaking of smooth operators, depilatories may be the best alternative to running a faucet over a razor. Three or four of one popular brand can be mine for $5.39 each, and I might get Ryan to sing "Legs! She knows how to use them," whenever I walk into a room. Fortunately for my wallet, I happen to be blessed with a naturally hairless body, like a bald eagle I tell you, so I can save for other items.

These handy facial cleansing, make-up removing towelettes , for example, are on sale at $1.99. I do indeed have sensitive skin, and all those lifestyle magazines discourage using soap on our kissers. Yes!

Stridex offers face wipes "to go" for $5.29. No more blemishes while I’m on the run. Lynn will be so jealous when she sees my new radiant complexion.

You know, sometimes you are what you wear, and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m a compost heap or, on a good day, a food disposal. Perhaps I should invest in these dry cleaning sheets to throw in with my soiled, yet stain-treated, apparel. They seem reasonably priced at $9.99 for enough to wash 24 garments.

Oh! Waterless hand sanitizers kill something like 99.99 percent of germs (but hey, who’s counting?), and an 8-ounce bottle sells for $3.49. I could buy five of them and zap any critter who so much as looks at me funny.

Well, I’m out of time, kids. If only I could stand on this soapbox (wink) a little longer to teach all the Ryans and Lynns of this world how to compromise. Smell you later.

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