Correct identification of specific tastes and odours in a water supply can be a powerful tool in identifying the cause of the problem and facilitating rapid remediation. While taste and odour identification can be achieved by laboratory testing, consumer involvement is not only worthwhile as a public education exercise but can also indicate tastes and odours to which the public do not object. Interpretation of taste and odour results is a complex process. The Australian Water Quality Centre (AWQC), based in Adelaide, South Australia, has established a flavour profile panel, trained in Flavour Profile Analysis (FPA). This group was chosen to carry out a survey of tastes and odours present in selected Australian water supplies and laboratory treated water and bottled water. The waters were also assessed by a group of untrained volunteers to simulate the responses of consumers. In two series of tests there were significant differences in responses between the groups with respect to the intensity of the tastes and odours detected. In both instances the responses by the trained group were more consistent, making interpretation of results more straightforward. In the second series of tests the panellists were also asked their personal preferences. The results showed in general the preferred waters were those with minimal taste and odour and this was generally irrespective of the type of taste and odour present.

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