Miami-Dade has plenty to brag about: stellar beaches, celebrities who live in multimillion-dollar mansions, four-star restaurants, the world famous tennis tournament on Key Biscayne and Miami Heat national basketball champions.
But a county document boasted about something far more ordinary on July 9 when Mayor Carlos Gimenez released his budget proposal. A budget-in-brief document written by the county’s Office of Management and Budget stated that the county has “the nation’s highest-rated tap water.”
Do we have some sort of liquid gold pouring out of our faucets that is the envy of other counties nationwide? We went in search of answers to quench our curiosity.
First, let’s wade into the surprisingly controversial history of Miami-Dade county government talking up tap water.
In 2008, the county landed in hot water after it aired radio ads that boasted its tap water was better than bottled water.
Nestle Waters North America, which makes nearly $4 billion a year selling Zephyrhills and other brands, threatened to sue, the Miami Herald wrote. (It never did, a county spokeswoman told PolitiFact.)
The county continued the tap water promotions, including a mock boxing-match video between tap water and bottled water, a love song jingle “Miami-Dade tap water you’re No. 1!” and a video of a young cowboy asking Mom, “Howdy Ma’am. What do you have on tap?” She replies, “For you partner, I’ve got the original tap.”
We asked a Miami-Dade County spokeswoman to explain the source of the claim that the county has the “nation’s highest-rated tap water.”
We sensed some research percolating at Miami-Dade County Hall as spokespersons sent us emails saying we’d get an answer soon.
A few hours later, we had a reply: “It’s a scrivener’s error,” said Jennifer L. Messemer, a spokeswoman in Miami-Dade’s Water and Sewer Department.
Budget director Jennifer Moon told us in an email that “we compile input from the various departments to put in the budget-in-brief. We realized yesterday that we inadvertently left out ‘one of’ in the statement regarding the highest rated water. We will correct this online and in future prints.”
At PolitiFact we give props when someone fesses up to an error, but we continue our fact-check anyway.
The error was in a document written by the budget department, according to Messemer. We did not find the same claim in other water-related documents. The full chapter on the water and sewer department’s budget proposal merely refers to the water as “high-quality drinking water.” (It also mentions an upcoming $1.6 billion projected to fix environmental violations from failing wastewater infrastructure.)
The annual water quality report states that the water “is delicious and meets and exceeds all local, state and federal guidelines. So drink up with confidence!”
The county has received some kudos for water quality.
Messemer pointed to a 2008 Forbes.com Top 10 list of “Best Cities for Clean Drinking Water.” The article, which ranked the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area fourth, was based on a 2007 water quality study compiled by University of Cincinnati researchers. (The report was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble.)