WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -- Across the United States, millions are experiencing severe drought conditions. The United States Drought Monitor reveals more than 30 percent of the country is facing crop loss, frequent water shortages, and water restrictions.
"Lot of people take it for granted. You turn your water faucet on or you take your shower and the water's there for you. They don't really consider where it comes from, what it takes to get that clean safe drinking water to you," said Winona's Water Superintendent, Bob Dunn.
The value of clean, easily accessible water hasn't gone unnoticed by Dunn, who has worked at Winona's water plant for more than 20 years.
"Worked my way up from meter reader all the way to superintendent," said Dunn.
In that time, his work has become one of his greatest passions. He's worked overtime for months after a harsh winter kept pipes in the city frozen until April. Dunn said it's been one of the busiest winters he's seen. But somewhere in between fixing broken pipes and making house calls, the "municipal purveyor of water" as he calls himself, finds time to educate his customers and the public about water conservation.
In addition to his duties at the plant, he has taken on the role of tour guide, explaining to the public exactly what he does everyday to keep their water of the highest quality….
"I take 30 samples every month to verify the water is safe…verified and the Department of Health is notified," said Dunn. "The bottled water industry doesn't have those standards."
Dunn said he's no crusader against water bottle distributors, but he said there are better, cheaper ways to fill your glass. In recent years, Bob's been focused on breaking down misconceptions that Winona's tap water is sub par to the H2O behind a label.
"I know that my water's safer than that bottle of water you get from a Kwik Trip because I can prove it," said Dunn.
Dunn developed a rudimentary experiment to prove the critics wrong and show that not only is "his" water tastier, it's also cost effective.
"It's astronomical really. You can buy gas cheaper than you can bottled water," said Dunn.
Dunn has traveled to different counties across three states, collecting bottled water from multiple stores to include in his experiment. Set up in Winona's water plant, the superintendent and southeast Minnesota's water district trustee has put together a blind taste test for visitors, which he moderates after his tours.
According to Dunn's research, for a popular bottled brand you'll find on the shelf it could cost you as much as $120 per 10 gallons verses the 6 cents it will cost you per 10 gallons of Winona tap water.
"These advertisement guys are trying to make it sound like it's the best water in the world is what they're doing," said Dunn.
After touring the facility and completing the test, many of Dunn's "guinea pigs" are leaving with a new perspective. Of the hundreds of classrooms, visitors and customers who've taken his water challenge – almost all choose Winona's tap water over bottled.
"My thought, which I try to purvey to everyone, if you're going to buy bottled water, buy one, but then after that fill it up with your tap," said Dunn.
Dunn has been researching and conducting experiments for more than three years. His reasoning is simple.
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