How to Test Water Quality and Why

Make sure you know exactly what might be hiding in your water with our guide to water testing. We cover the range of options available, how to test the water, and exactly what you need to be testing for.

Getting the perfect water filter system to protect your home or business depends on knowing exactly which harmful contaminants need to be removed. There are many different methods of water filtration, and each specializes in removing specific contaminants from water. If you know what chemicals lurk in your water then you can get the most effective water filter for dealing with them.


Luckily, testing your water to see what is in it has never been easier. There are various ways that this can be done, and in today’s post, we’ll discuss each of them.


Water Quality Testing

Know When to Test Your Drinking Water. Even when your drinking water seems to be crystal clear and odorless, you should not be too relaxed. Clear drinking water is not necessarily safe drinking water. Contaminants such as lead are colorless and odorless, which makes them particularly problematic. You can’t be entirely sure your water is safe to drink just by looking at it. But that doesn’t mean you have to rely on bottled water to stay safe… only that you should know a few things about water contamination and how best to avoid it.

Make it a habit to have your drinking water tested for contaminants and pollutants on a regular basis. You can test the pH levels of your water yourself quite easily using simple chemical test strips. Aside from the routine check, there are also clear signs that should alert you and if you notice any of these indications, stop from drinking and using the water immediately.


Water Has Strong Chlorine Taste and Smell.

The presence of chlorine in the water is an indication that it is being treated at a water treatment plant. The treatment is needed to disinfect the water and kill off any bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that may be present in the water. However, chlorine itself can form harmful by-products.


Water Has a Metallic Taste

The salty or metallic taste of drinking water can be due to high mineral concentration in the water system. It can be iron, manganese, or any other type of mineral.


Water Smells Like Rotten Egg

This is something that can be noticeable and disturbing as the smell of rotten eggs is an indication that there is a decaying organic material underground. The unusual smell comes from the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas which may have been picked up by the water when it passed through. Another possible cause of the rotten egg smell is the presence of bacteria, so either way, you need to have your water checked.


Water Has Color

We all know that water should be crystal clear so if you notice that your drinking water has some color, it is no longer drinkable. Just so you know, if the water turns red, brown, or rusty, it is generally a sign of the presence of iron or manganese. If water has a greenish or bluish color, it may be an indication that there is copper in your water. If water is cloudy, white, or foamy, it may be due to turbidity which may be caused by a large number of individual particles invisible to the naked eye.


Other reasons to test your drinking water are the following:
  • Your family experiences recurring gastrointestinal problems.
  • You or someone in your household is pregnant.
  • Your water supply is next to a septic tank or the distance is questionable.
  • You have a leaking gas tank near your water supply.
  • There is a livestock nearby or you have mixed some pesticides and other chemicals near your water supply.
  • You live near a chemical plant, an oil or gas drilling company, a gas station, a mining operation, a landfill, a junkyard, or a heavily salted roadway.


How Did The Clean Water Act Affect The Quality Of Water?

Water pollution has serious consequences. To protect the environment the dangerous effects of water pollution, in 1948 the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act which was amended in 1972 and became popularly known as the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act established surface water standards and significantly improved the quality of much of the nation’s water, significantly reducing toxic pollutants and industrial discharge. The Great Lakes, along with many other bodies of water, have been completely revitalized since the Clean Water Act went into effect. and many more people have access to safe drinking water.


What Can Water Testing Uncover?

There are various things that water quality testing can uncover. There’s obviously the primary concern of harmful contaminants in water, but we can also identify the water hardness, and also the water’s pH. Water hardness is caused by minerals like calcium and magnesium that cause limescale buildup that ruins pipes and appliances. Water with a low pH (below 7) is acidic. This is bad for our health and may also corrode pipes and fixtures. Other pollutants that can be tested for include disease-causing bacteria such as occur in fecal coliform.

Most tests will highlight a range of harmful water contaminants and disease-causing organisms in a water sample. If you’re not sure what you should be testing for then take a look at the table below. These guidelines are taken from the EPA guide to home water testing. They apply more to homes with private well water supplies but are still useful for everyone.


Condition or Activities Nearby: Recurring gastro-intestinal illness. What to Test For: Coliform bacteria

Condition or Activities Nearby: Lead in plumbing fixtures. What to Test For: Lead, copper, pH.

Condition or Activities Nearby: Radon in the air. What to Test For: Radon

Condition or Activities Nearby: Soap doesn’t lather or limescale. What to Test For: Hardness

Condition or Activities Nearby: Water softener needed to treat hard water. What to Test For: Iron, manganese

Condition or Activities Nearby: Stained laundry/plumbing fixtures. What to Test For: Copper, iron, manganese

Condition or Activities Nearby: Bad smell/taste. What to Test For: Copper, iron, manganese

Condition or Activities Nearby: Water is colored/frothy/cloudy. What to Test For: Detergents

Condition or Activities Nearby: Corroding pipes. What to Test For: Lead, pH, corrosion

Condition or Activities Nearby: Water treatment equipment wears out quickly. What to Test For: pH, corrosion

Condition or Activities Nearby: Agriculture nearby. What to Test For: Pesticides, nitrates, coliform bacteria

Condition or Activities Nearby: Nearby mining operations. What to Test For: pH, heavy metals

Condition or Activities Nearby: Nearby gas drilling. What to Test For: Sodium, chloride, barium, strontium

Condition or Activities Nearby: Gasoline/fuel smell, or nearby gas station/fuel tanks. What to Test For: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Condition or Activities Nearby: Nearby junkyard/landfill/dump/factory/dry cleaners. What to Test For: VOCs, Total Dissolved Solids (TDs), heavy metals, chloride, pH, sulfate

Condition or Activities Nearby: Salt taste/Nearby salted roads. What to Test For: TDS, chloride, sodium


How to Test Water Quality

Here are 3 ways you can find out the quality of your drinking water.

1. How Do You Find Out Water Quality Information For Your City’s Water?

Get a Water Quality Report

Your local water municipality is required by law to test the water regularly. This information is made public every year in the form of a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The CCR for your local area will tell you where your water comes from, and precisely what is in it. Best of all it’s free.

However, there are a couple of things to be aware of with these reports. They give the result of water quality testing that might have been done a few months ago. Things can change over a short period of time, so consider that. Also, they are the results of testing done at a central point (usually the water treatment plant). The water can become contaminated on its journey from the plant to your home. For a truly accurate read-out, the water needs to be tested at your home.

An alternative way of obtaining a water quality report like this would be to contact your local water company directly.

It should be noted that those with well water supplies aren’t supplied with these reports, and are required to maintain their water themselves. If you have a well water supply then tips 2 & 3 are more relevant.


2. How Can I Test For Pollution In Water?

Get a Home Water Test Kit

With a home water test kit, you can get instant results that measure the water at that moment. This method gives the most up to date, and therefore relevant results. A home water testing kit is relatively inexpensive and can be quite a powerful tool. A laboratory test will always be the highest standard of water test, but home kits can give a great indication of whether further testing is needed.

You can purchase drinking water quality test kits from superstores, home improvement stores, and even online. Using these kits, you can check if your drinking water has any bacteria, lead, nitrates, pesticides, chlorine, hardness, and pH.

There also some kits which test for less common contaminants such as iron, copper, sulfate, and sulfide. Some of the advantages of using a water testing kit are that they are fast (because you can immediately get the results), inexpensive, and simple to use. The kit usually comes with a package of test strips that contain reactants. Exposure of these strips to your drinking water will make them change their colors to indicate the presence of the said contaminants in your water.

However, please take note that these water testing kits may not be as accurate compared to lab tests. They may not be able to test for all harmful contaminants unless you have very high levels present in your drinking water.


Have additional questions regarding water quality testing or would like to schedule a free water quality test and analysis by one of our water pros? Call our operator to schedule now!


(214) 473-4575


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