Water poured into a measuring glass.
Water poured into a measuring glass. - 
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Lisa Napoli: Small town drinking water suppliers from across the country are in Washington today to battle it out for an annual taste test. But for most rural water suppliers, taste is the least of their worries. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

Sam Eaton: Oakley City, Utah, is one of the finalists for the best tasting rural tap water in the nation. Water system operator Doug Evans says there's a reason.

Doug Evans: The water was tested to be so pure that we had it carbon dated. And the water came back with a carbon dating of about 18,000 years.

That's because this tiny mountain town lucked into an ancient aquifer 2,000 feet down. Jane Houlihan with the Environmental Working Group says many towns are forced to get their drinking water directly from polluted streams and rivers.

Jane Houlihan: That means the treatment plants bear the brunt of trying to clean that water up to make it safe enough to drink and, particularly for small towns, there just aren't the resources that are needed to treat the water sufficiently.

And that's not likely to change. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed loosening limits on contaminants in rural drinking water rather than force the facilities to make costly upgrades.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

Follow Sam Eaton at @eatonsam