Evian – both the water and the town - suffer from nothing. It is one of the most widely recognized bottled waters on the planet and it’s a ridiculously beautiful place in France. But people still ask me about Evian's water source. "It comes from a natural spring in the town of Evian," I tell them. "No seriously, where do they get the water,” they ask. People seem to think that Evian water does not come from Evian but from…well, where exactly? So in October 2018 I was in Evian France and I went to the exact source of the water so I can explain it firsthand.
|Plateau de Gavot|
Set amid dairy farms, grasslands, strands of trees and crops is a 35 square kilometer (8,600 acre) piece of land, in essence a catchment basin, or more appropriately, a flat mesa called Plateau de Gavot. In reality it's a large table of land and it sits above the town of Evian. If you ever visit Evian via boat from Lausanne Switzerland this shelf is clearly visible from far away, which then drops off and curves down to the lake where the town and actual spring are both located. If you drive into town you don't notice it. It's on this land that the rains beat down and the water is absorbed into the dirt – glacial sand, clay, and gravel - seeping down between 100-200 meters (300-600 feet) then slowly makes its way under the hillside, taking about 15 years before it percolates to the surface at several natural springs, one of which you can actually visit.
|One of Evian's geologists shows me Evian's water source|
Standing atop the plateau on a bright, crisp October day, there is little that is remarkable about being here except for its own natural beauty. Sure, the dairy cows meander about (producing a well-known cheese known as Abondance – meaning “abundance,” which also alludes to the amount of water inside these hills), the bells around their necks jingling like an archaic GPS while hawks pierce the air overhead. There are rugged mountains in the distance – actually the inspiration for the mountains that appear on their label - but this particular place, well, it has nothing of significance that the eye can see.
|Me, standing at the Plateau de Gavot|
But like most water sources I have visited across the globe (Europe, China, U.S.), the real story about water is almost always what you don't see - what happens under our feet. Rain water travels about 10 miles through the plateau to the springs then the remaining water runs into Lake Geneva, picking up minerals and trace elements like calcium and manganese from the moraine soil and glacial sand. That water is bottled and labeled, “Evian,” because it comes from there, a unique spring that was “discovered” in 1789, though like natural springs across the globe they have been around for thousands of years until someone stumbled upon them and realized they could make money.
|One of the early water bottles from Evian's collection|
You can visit the Evian plant - there's a small gift shop and museum showing what Evian bottles were like back in the day when the resort was initially a tourist destination where people “took the waters.” Aside from that you can also visit the spring, the place where Evian water actually does come from. A visit reaffirms that the best bottled waters come from a specific source, offering the taste of a unique fingerprint of soil, rain, rock and time.