Why Does the Water at Walt Disney World Taste Funny?
Have you ever taken a drink of the tap water at an Orlando hotel and recoiled in horror at the taste?
You’re not drinking something unhealthy. No hotel chain in the world would allow that, much less Disney.
However, you are sampling water with a much different flavor than you’ve come to expect. Why is that?
Why does the water at Walt Disney World taste funny, and is that okay? Let’s talk it through.
The Drinking Water You Expect
Americans take drinking water for granted.
I vividly recall an NFL football player proudly talking about his college project, which helped residents of third-world countries purify their water.
That brilliant man, Calvin Johnson, tried to make a difference in the lives of people he’d never met.
We don’t have sanitation or drinking water issues here because American communities create water systems.
These hydration methods sample from either surface water or groundwater. In fact, nine out of ten public water systems come from groundwater.
Roughly seven out of ten people drink surface water, though. It’s a quirk of the metropolitan nature of our society.
In large cities, surface water systems are easier to create. So, odds are good (say, 70 percent) that you’re used to drinking surface water.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) utilizes both, and that’s part of the explanation.
The Challenges of Drinking Water
Before we discuss it, we should talk about something else, though. How much do you like your tap water?
Many Americans aren’t crazy about it, even though we’re among the luckiest people on this planet with regards to readily available running water.
I mean, you’ve purchased bottled water, right? Have you ever used a water purifier or Brita filter or the like?
You did this because you wanted the cleanest, purest water available. Marketers know this, which is why water bottles brag about their purity.
Here’s the thing, though. Sometimes, simply having water in a place qualifies as a miracle.
I live on top of a mountain with an elevation of 1,200 feet. The bottom of my hill is only 300 feet above the ground. So, we have to drive straight uphill.
A maintenance worker once explained our lack of shower water pressure by pointing out that it’s miraculous that we have water at all.
The pipes must run upward at a sharp angle to reach us. If we want to live here, that’s one of the trade-offs.
In some areas, the surface water and groundwater options are simpler to achieve than in locations like where I live.
The same is true in Orlando, which was famously swampland when Walt Disney bought thousands of acres of land.
You may remember that Magic Kingdom sits on the second floor above the Utilidors because Disney couldn’t safely build a park on the ground floor.
The water table proved too challenging for that. And the same sticking point applies to the water itself.
You’re drinking water from what used to be a swamp. That’s not to say that you’re drinking swamp water, though.
Disney has purified the water exhaustively, but that leads to another part of the problem.
The Magic Word Is Sulfur
How much does it rain in Florida? Well, I’m not saying it’s as bad as London or Seattle, but you just remembered a sudden storm at Walt Disney World, didn’t you?
Flash rain storms happen at Disney all the time, and they come with natural reactions.
The rainwater leaks into the vegetation, causing leaves to drip and roots to flourish. When this happens, organic residue forms.
Eventually, that substance evolves into something called sulfur water. And that stuff comes with a distinctive smell and taste.
If you’re ever drinking tap water in Florida, not just in Orlando, and notice a rotten egg-like smell, it’s sulfur.
You’re not drinking anything poisonous and shouldn’t worry. It’s just an oddity that may give you pause.
The municipal Orlando government cannot completely eliminate sulfur because, well, they can’t stop the rain.
Similarly, at Walt Disney World, Imagineers fret over any environmental impact of their projects.
They’re not going to mess with anything just to make the water smell or taste better.
So, some guests pour water from the tap of a Disney hotel and notice that it doesn’t taste like the water back home.
Similarly, guests who drink the fountain water at the parks sometimes comment on that weird taste/smell.
Part of it stems from sulfur, another from the intricate RCID water purification system in place, and more from the state of the pipes.
Disney water can taste metallic due to high iron, zinc, or copper concentration. It all depends on where you are on the Disney campus.
Is Disney Drinking Water Safe?
Of course! Don’t be ridiculous! Do you honestly believe that Disney would allow tens of thousands of guests to drink unsanitary water each day?
While sulfates can impact the color, smell, and taste of drinking water, they’re mostly harmless.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney World employs one of the most stringent water filtration systems in the world.
While designing the campus, park officials constructed 47 miles of canals to protect the water. Then, they added 24 floodgates and other forms of water control.
Even with all these measures in place, water filtering cannot remove the sulfates entirely everywhere.
So, you may find that a glass of water at a restaurant tastes better than the sink in your hotel room.
Generally, that happens because Disney has strengthened its filtration processes at the places where guests are most likely to drink the water.
However, the resorts come with unique challenges that make some difficult to remove the sulfates.
How much of that is personal preference vs. legitimate issues with excessive sulfur? I cannot say.
None of the water composition changes the safety of what you’re drinking. You’re just consuming different minerals.
The water flavor you’d expect is likely chlorine-impacted. You will taste such water at Disney, just not as often as sulfur since that’s literally seeping into the ground.
Interestingly, the Environmental Protection Agency considers water contaminants dangerous at a certain level.
The sulfates at Walt Disney World only reach three percent (!) of that level.
So, they’re mathematically insignificant but matter enough to change the flavor and smell. Weird, huh?