I made an innocent query to our city about how the water was treated. The water is not softened, but the public works manager said, "After being initially disinfected with chlorine, state water [yes, Morro Bay is on state water] adds enough ammonia to form chrloramines. Chlorine is a stronger disinfectant but tends to dissipate quicker than chloramines and can also lead to the formation of 'disinfection by-products' if free chlorine is left in contact with the water for extended periods of time. these by-products are undesirable. Chloramines are a more persistent disinfectant than chlorine alone and with the time and distance the water travels to get to Morro Bay and the desire to reduce the formation of by-products, it is the material of choice."
I did a quick search of chloramine references in The Fresh Loaf threads and find it to be particularly undesirable with sourdoughs. No wonder. Per the above description, they kill all the little beasties they encounter, including the delicate wild yeastie beasties.
The TFL references I found suggest that one switch to spring water. But the "spring water" I was using turned out to be questionable, giving me the same dough problems as my reverse osmosis (100% pure) water.
My choices of water are reverse osmosis (no chloramines, I assume), Culligan-soft tap water(with chloramines), city-processed-but-not-softened city water (with chloramines), and whatever I can find at the grocery store.
Maybe someone out there can advise me. I could see if I could find a different "spring water" at the grocery store. I could take my reverse osmosis water and do whatever Mike Avery is doing to harden his water a little bit. I could give up on sourdough. Any other ideas?