A number of signs can indicate that your water is in need of quality testing. Changes in taste, appearance, or odor are common signs of contamination, but there are a number of contaminants that will not leave any signs at all, so it’s important to water test under the following conditions, as well; if you’ve moved into a new home or city, if you think your septic system may have malfunctioned, if your family continuously gets gastrointestinal illnesses, or if you have any infants living in your home. You will also want to test your water regularly to check the efficiency of any water treatment equipment you’ve installed.

For water testing recommendations specific to your area, you can contact the local health or environmental agency. Some regions are more at risk of certain contaminants than others and you will want to be privy to this information. Some region-specific markers are arsenic and radon, a gas that is a byproduct of radioactivity. You can also purchase at-home water testing kits relatively inexpensively or employ a professional from a water works facility. They can test your water professionally or help you to interpret the results of you own at-home test.

One of the first contaminant markers you’ll want to note is Coliform Bacteria. This marker is present when the water is contaminated by human or animal waste. The Total Coliform category is a broad one and is actually more harmless than it seems. The marker would need to be incredibly high to pose a threat worth noting. The importance of the marker is more as a place to begin, and to compare future water testing results against. If the number climbs, you may have a more significant matter that needs addressing.

Another important indicator is Nitrate. High levels of nitrate indicates a health risk threatened by contaminants of fertilizers, septic systems, animal manure, and sewer lines. It may also occur in nature as a breakdown process. With high levels of Nitrate, you are recommended to test for several other markers and not to use the water until the problem is completely resolved.

Other beneficial test conclusions will tell you the water’s PH balance, hardness, iron level, manganese, and sulfides that can corrode pipes and change your water’s odor. If your water appears cloudy, you notice marks on your fixtures caused by water, or your water treatment equipment stops functioning as it should, you should test your water and have it interpreted by a professional.

 

If you’ve just moved to a new home or area, or notice changes in your water’s taste, appearance, or odor, it’s time to get your water tested. There are several ways to go about home water testing and all are fairly easy. Home water testing kits are available and even if after you’ve test it and need help interpreting its results, a local professional would be happy to help you. Water treatment and testing professionals are like any other home service professional and you can make an appointment for them to check your water and share the results with you, or you can call your water company directly. Prior to contacting anyone or purchasing a kit, you will want to call your local health or environmental agency to determine if there are any specific recommendations for testing in your area. There are often city or state guidelines for testing water that factor in local water quality concerns, such as the level of arsenic or radon presence. Arsenic occurs in water that’s come into contact with certain types of rock and soil. Radon is an element virtually detectless. It’s colorless, odorless, and tasteless; a gas that comes from the radioactivity process involved with Uranium in the ground. As I mentioned, it’s best to contact a local agency to find out what your area’s recommendations are so you don’t miss out on the testing necessary to your home.

Other occasions you might want to test your water are to regularly test any water treatment equipment you are using to improve the quality of your water, if you know of a septic system malfunction or any other circumstance that might sacrifice your water’s quality, if your family has had reoccuring gastrointestinal illness, or if any infants are living or visiting your home. They are particularly in danger, especially if you have any indicator of the presence of nitrates.

Here are some of the most common elements tested for.

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform Bacteria is the most common indicator of bacteria. It is the most important indicator of contamination due to human or animal waste, but can also signify that there are other bacterias present from soil, nearby vegetation, insects, and other things. The Total Coliform is a broad category, so it actually poses little threat to humans. If fecal matter is a concern, further testing for other indicators should occur, such as that of the e-coli bacteria. However, Total Coliform is a great place to begin testing because it gives you an overview of your water quality and when tested again, can tell you if your water quality is worsening or not.

Nitrates

As previously mentioned, Nitrates are particularly bad for babies and children. They typically come from fertilizers, septic systems, animal manure, sewer systems, and can also be a product of a naturally occurring process when certain soils and rocks break down. High levels of Nitrates do pose potential harm to humans and should be followed up with further testing to check for other markers and pesticides. If you have any concern of your Nitrate level, it is best not to use any water for a child’s use or to mix with formula.

Other parts of your home water testing process will include the PH balance, hardness, level of iron, manganese and sulfides that cause problems with plumbing, staining, appearance, odor, and how it reacts on your skin and hair. If your water appears oily or cloudy, you can see the appearance of anything on your plumbing fixtures, or your water treatment equipment is in question, be sure to bring in a professional to test and interpret water quality results and avoid further use until you are given the okay.