That's the price of free water.
Alderwood Water & Wastewater District maintains the public artesian well that gushes out untreated water. Drinkers believe in the purity and swear by the clean taste. Otherwise, why would they brave the hellish gridlock of Lynnwood?
“It's fresh and good,” said Cher Clemans, a regular from Snohomish. “Once you try it, you'll come back.”
Day and night, the water worshippers line up with their new-age plastic buckets at the enchanting well between Manor Way and Ash Way just off 164th Street SW in Lynnwood. Milk cartons. Sunny Delight bottles. Baby bottles. Nalgene bottles. Super Soaker guns. Anything that holds liquid is fair game.
There's no bottle limit when it's your turn at the nozzle. Fill one or 50. There are two spigots and no express lane. Yep, it might be a 30-minute wait. Don't even think about fussing and moaning about it.
Courtesy reigns. Most know the watering hole etiquette and those who don't catch on fast. The water is free, but this isn't a free-for-all.
“People self-police the lines,” said Mike Pivec, water district spokesman. “We typically see very well-behaved crowds. We don't have staff down there on site, unless we take out the trash or get samples.”
The bacteriological water test results are posted on the district's website. So far, so good. There's never been a bad report card.
Even so, the well is a drain on the water company.
“The district doesn't make any revenue, and it costs them money,” Pivec said, citing upkeep at the well. “The community really enjoys it. It wouldn't make sense charging them. We hope to be able to continue the service.”
He said fans of the well independently started their own Facebook page, Artesian Well at Lynnwood, WA. It has 603 Likes, and posts that include health tips, cold drink recipes and an elephant that plays the piano.
The 164th Street well was drilled in 1956 and it's the last one standing in the district. The other nine wells were disconnected in 1961 to meet the water demands of the growing population. The company now supplements its supply with water from the city of Everett and its Spada Lake reservoir.
The well taps an aquifer at about 200 feet underground. There's no shut-off valve. Water spits out at a rate of about 10 gallons a minute that flows into a drain below the spigot when there isn't someone filling up. Not that it's often; a steady flow of drinkers fill up 24/7.
Parking is perilous. The wait can be long. And your clothes might get wet.
So what makes this water so special?
Depends on who you ask.
“It's what isn't in the water. No fluoride. No chlorine,” said Sandra Stanbury, who comes from Bothell. “We've been here at midnight and there were people here. There are people from everywhere. It's like the United Nations here.”
Some come on principle and skepticism.
“It would irritate me to buy a little bottle for what is it, $2?” said Lowell Chase of Edmonds. “We can't trust the water in our house anymore. I'm not saying it's bad water. You just don't know.”
Others cite taste.
“It's the freshest water. All other water always has some type of taste to it,” said Seattle mom Angela Shavazz, who comes monthly with kids and bottles in tow.
“My father-in-law told me about it and I was like, ‘All the way out in Lynnwood? Are you serious? I know the water can't be that good,'” Shavazz said. “I came out here and it was like heaven. We use it for everything. We wash our hair with it.”
Hydration brought Marco Voli from Edmonds. “We're headed up to a music festival at the Gorge and were like, ‘What better way to get a bunch of water than at a free well?' You gotta be hydrated,” he said.
Gus Lundberg, visiting from Arizona, filled jugs on an errand for his parents in Edmonds. “They've been coming here forever,” he said. “It all tastes the same to me.”
For Everett resident Joseph Cruz, it's more than water. It's camaraderie.
“The energy is good here,” Cruz said. “It's the most interesting chore I do.”
Standing in line armed with two 5-gallon bottles, he insisted the person behind him with a small jug go first.
“One time I ran into this girl here, I'd have married her on the spot,” Cruz said. “There was eye contact and smiles and everything. She was four people in front of me and I was just tripping.”
He's yet to see her here again.
Lynnwood artesian well
Where: 2331 164th St. SW, Lynnwood
When: Accessible 24 hours
Aquifer: The well taps the Intercity Aquifer at approximately 200 feet below the surface.
Parking: The parking lot is big enough for about 10 cars but gets crowded quickly during the busier times.
Equipment: People bring everything from water bottles to milk cartons or other large water jugs. Basically if it holds water, it works. Online: Visit the well's Facebook page here.
It may not be as fun as a wine tasting, but to get an idea of the differences in taste of artesian well water, The Herald conducted an unscientific taste test of three types of water: city of Everett tap water, bottled water (from Costco) and water from the artesian well in Lynnwood. Out of 15 people, eight preferred the tap water and five said they'd drink the bottled water if given a choice. Just two people picked the artesian well water as their favorite. Most of those tested said they could taste a difference between at least two of the waters, and a few correctly guessed the source of each one.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; email@example.com
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