HONEYVILLE – By Ellen Cook – March 6, 2020
When the Sons of the Pioneers sang about “cool, clear water,” they could have been referring to the quality of the drinking water in Honeyville.
At this year’s annual convention of the Utah Rural Water Association, held in Saint George, judges were also singing those same praises as they awarded the Box Elder County community of about 1,500 residents, “Best Water in the State of Utah 2020.”
Troy McNeely, Honeyville’s public works director, has helped maintain the city’s two reservoirs, two wells and eight springs since he was hired 19 years ago. During that time, he has taken samples drawn from various sites to the convention to be judged each year. Eighteen years ago, Honeyville came in second place. It has been a pretty dry spell since then.
McNeely, however, remained confident year after year.
“I’ve always thought we had good water,” he said. “The residents have always told me how good it is. I’ve had people who have moved away and come back and they say the one thing they really miss is our water.”
This year for the contest, McNeely again headed to the source of Honeyville’s abundant and admired water supply, the Wellsville Mountain Range. He chose the spring that had consistently provided what he considered the best tasting water overall, Spring #5.
“When I went up there and pulled it - I took a brand, new jar and pulled that (water) out - it was just so beautiful,” he remembered. “The sun was just coming over the mountain and I held it up and it was just so crystal clear that I turned to my wife and said, ‘this is the winner.’”
His prediction was right on the mark.
A panel of judges, made up of people who have professional backgrounds in dealing with water, considered over three dozen samples in the preliminary judging. They were looking for those that stood out in clarity, smell and taste. From those samples, three were selected to move on to the final judging, held at the Board of Directors meeting later in the week.
McNeely said when he walked into that room and identified one of those three jars as being Honeyville’s, he was elated, knowing his city would at least place. A new set of judges then tested the finalists, analyzing each on a scale of 1 to 10, with decimal points along the way.
“I watched the judges as they were judging,” McNeely said. “They would pick up the one glass and they would look and then they would pick up another and they would look. They judged each one separate. I mean, how do you judge water? I don’t envy them at all. All the samples looked good.”
But in the end, Honeyville’s sample bested out the other two. Francis, in Summit County, took second, while Elsinore in Sevier County took third. Both are smaller cities in size than Honeyville
“We were just two decimal points different from the second-place winner,” McNeely said. “That’s how close the judging was.”
He added that typically the winners come from the southern end of the state so to have a northern Utah community recognized this year was a bonus.
Bringing home the win was great, McNeely concluded, and he has gotten a lot of pats on the back and high-fives for the accomplishment. But in the end, the accolades need to go to the city.
“I can’t take full credit,” he said. “I may be over the system, I may be responsible for keeping the standards up, cleaning it and keeping it running, but there have been so many people in the past who have done so much. It is the city’s water; it is the city’s award. The city should feel proud of itself. It just makes me feel good to represent Honeyville and I cannot tell you how happy I am.”
McNeely will have a chance to take Honeyville’s water to the next level, competing at the national convention next February.