Why Test Your Water?
If your water is supplied by a municipality, large or small, your water supply is tested routinely, at the source. However, many of the pipes buried beneath our cities have been in place since the introduction of wide-spread water treatment. This aged and, in many cases, crumbling infrastructure now poses its own risk, which is why it’s smart to test the water where you use it – at your tap.
But what if you are on private water supply? That could be a well, lake water, or even a rainwater tank. In these cases, no one is testing your water unless you are! It’s possible that your water was tested when you moved in or drilled a new well, but microbial water quality changes over time and can be impacted by extreme weather events, land-use changes, or a nearby failing septic system. Many water contaminants cannot be seen or even tasted in water, so the only way to assess the quality of your water supply is to test it. Even if the presence of a particular contaminant is readily apparent, such as the red-colored stains on fixtures left by iron in the water, getting it tested will quantify the problem, making the best water treatment choice easier.
When water testing makes sense?
Well, the simple answer is, all the time. You never know when your water quality might change. But here are some key events you may want to keep in mind as a red flag to test your water: Change to your water’s colour, taste, or odour someone in your family has or develops a weak immune system from illness or medical treatment your family is growing unexplained gastrointestinal illness in anyone who has been drinking your watercolour moving into a new home or private good owners, basic testing for bacteria and nitrates is recommended by public health authorities, like the EPA or Health Canada, at least once a year. Other contaminants you may only need to test for once, such as hardness or iron, or infrequently, like radon. But this will depend on the prevalence of naturally occurring substances in the groundwater in your area. Again, your local public health department can provide specific guidance.
Where to test?
Public health units often provide testing. Otherwise, check your local listings for a certified laboratory that specializes in potable water tests. Regardless, you will want to obtain a testing kit with a sterile sample bottle. Follow the instructions carefully to make sure you have done accidentally contaminate the sample, which could impact the test results. Consider where you take the actual water sample – at the wellhead, before any water treatment equipment, or at the tap.
What tests should I have done?
Useful tests are available to help determine the health and safety of water supply, and the performance of a water treatment system. Your local health department can assist in selecting tests important for assessing your drinking water. Basic water potabilityInclude tests for coliform bacteria, nitrates, pH, sodium, chloride, fluoride, sulfate, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, and hardness. Coliform bacteria indicate the presence of microorganisms in the water that are potentially harmful to human health. NitrateA common contaminant found mainly in groundwater. High nitrate concentrations can be particularly dangerous for babies under six months since nitrate interferes with the ability of blood to carry oxygen.IonsIons such as sodium, chloride, sulfate, iron, and manganese can impart objectionable taste or odour to the water.SulfateExcessive amounts of sulfate can have a laxative effect or cause gastrointestinal irritation.FluorideFluoride is an essential micro-nutrient, but excessive amounts can cause dental problems.
How often should I test my water?
Private well water should be tested a minimum of once per year. Drinking water supplies obtained from shallow wells and surface water sources should be tested more frequently (i.e.seasonally), as they are more susceptible to contamination. It is important to test your drinking water at the tap and at the source. Testing both will help you determine if your treatment system is performing correctly and if the quality of your source water has changed.