Should I have My Home Water Tested?
Testing home water and whether yours should be tested depends upon several factors. Bad water can cause illness and be a health risk. There are a variety of other problems that aren’t health related but do cause you not to enjoy your water including bad taste & odor, an off color, dingy gray clothes, staining and hard encrusted buildup on appliances and fixtures. There are other reasons to have your water tested that may not have a direct relation to your water quality. These reasons include the proximity of your well to hazards such as septic systems, farming and ranching operations and what your home’s plumbing is made of.
You should strongly consider having your water tested if you suspect lead may be in your plumbing system or there is any reason to suspect your well might be under the influence of surface water. If your are considering a water treatment system testing the water is the only way to properly identify problems. What it is you want or should have fixed and test results is how proper treatment can be recommended.
Public Water Systems
When you turn on the tap, where does the water come from? If you pay a water bill, you are purchasing water from a public water system. Public systems monitor, test and report results to the federal, state or tribal drinking water agencies. These agencies are responsible for making sure it meets the National Primary Drinking Water Standards. Your water company must notify you when contaminants are in the water they provide that may cause illness or other problems.
Most people in the United States receive water from a community water system that provides an annual water quality report, also known as a Consumer Confidence Report. Normally, you will receive it with your water bill once a year in July. The report contains information on contaminants found, possible health effects, and the water’s source. If you do not receive a report, contact your water company for this information.
Private Water Supplies
If your drinking water does not come from a public water system, or you get your drinking water from a household well, you alone are responsible for assuring that it is safe. For this reason, routine testing for a few of the most common contaminants is highly recommended. Even if you currently have a safe, pure water supply, regular testing can be valuable because it establishes a record of water quality. This record is helpful in solving any future problems and in obtaining compensation if someone damages your water supply.
Testing home water can be very important. The following items will help you determine when to test your private drinking water supply.
How frequently should I test?
Test water every year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels. This is especially if you have a new well, or have replaced or repaired pipes, pumps or the well casing.
Do you expect to have a new baby in the household?
Test for nitrate in the early months of a pregnancy, before bringing an infant home, and again during the first six months of the baby’s life. It is best to test for nitrate during the spring or summer following a rainy period.
Do you have taste, odor and staining issues?
Test for sulfate, chloride, iron, manganese, hardness and corrosion, and every three years. If you suspect other contaminants, test for these also.
Have you had a chemical or fuel spill or leak near your water supply?
Test your well for chemical contaminants, such as volatile organic compounds. Tests can be expensive; limit them to possible problems specific to your situation. Local experts can tell you about possible impurities in your area.
Is someone in your household pregnant or nursing an infant? Are there unexplained illnesses in your family?
Do you notice a change in water taste, odor, color or clarity?
You may need to test more than once a year.
Do you know who can test your water?
When thinking about testing your home water where do you start? Often county health departments will help you test for bacteria or nitrates. If not, you can have your water tested by a state certified laboratory. You can find one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visiting www.epa.gov/safewater/labs. Don’t overlook your local water treatment professional for testing or recommendations to testing laboratories in your area.