AUBURN – Rainfall and hydrology impact how much water gets to Auburn, Neb., but Kenneth Swanson and his crew at Auburn Public Works take it from there to America’s highest level of drinking water competition.

Auburn’s water won the Nebraska Rural Water Association contest last spring and competed with 37 other state champions on Wednesday.

Swanson: “I knew Auburn always had pretty good quality of water, but we built a new filtering plant and, in 2012, it went online. I don’t know if that’s the reason it’s doing such a good job, but like I said this is the fourth time we’ve been recognized for this.”

Auburn Chamber Director Tonia Greiner said Auburn water is the real deal.


Greiner: “I would whole-heartedly say that Auburn water is the best water, so anywhere I go out to eat – water is all I drink – so I get water and match with my meal. So Bowldog Alley, that’s probably my favorite because I pair it with their hamburger and their cheeeseballs, but Pizza Hut water with cheesesticks, Café Metro water with pancakes. It’s all I drink is water and we truly have the best water.”


Auburn was reluctant to enter its water for contests, but gave it a shot in 2017.

Swanson: “It’s pretty hard in Nebraska to compete against all the other systems because most of them don’t treat their water. A lot of people don’t like the taste of chlorine or whatever.”

 Auburn water won best tasting at an AWWA fall convention and Swanson captured another sample for the championship run at the Nebraska Rural Water Association’s conference last spring.

 Swanson: “I was really please with that because at the rural water they have only one category – treated and untreated water are all thrown in together – it’s pretty tough to win if you’re a treated water system.”

The water is resupplied by the Little Nemaha River and comes from any of Auburn’s 10 wells to the iron and manganese removal plant.   Swanson explains the next steps.

Swanson: “Treat the water, goes through the filters. Add sodium permanganate to oxidize it so the iron and manganese can be filtered out easier and then we post chlorinate."

For the national contest, Swanson drew water from the drinking fountain at the utilities’ office and shipped it to Washington, D.C.

Swanson: “First I’ve got to say that I really can’t take all the credit for it. I just filled the jugs up and sent them in, but my water operators are the ones that need the credit for it because I’ve got a really dedicated crew of operators.”

The 300,000 gallons that go through Auburn’s filtration system each day, are enough for 3.2 million, 12-ounce glasses of water. Swanson said each is a winner in taste, purity and bouquet.

Swanson: “I’m not much of a pop drinker, so I usually order water. I’ve got to say Auburn taste better than a lot of them do. I’m not being prejudice or anything, but we've got good water."

Photos by Dan Swanson