Testing your water is important whether your household uses city water or well water. It allows you to identify contaminants and eliminate them before they cause health complications or damage your home’s water fixtures. You can effectively test your water with a trusted water testing laboratory to receive the most accurate results.
What Is Water Testing?
Water testing is a process that analyzes and evaluates water quality. The purpose of water testing is to ensure water is pollutant-free and meets regulatory requirements. Government organizations perform water testing to regulate water quality and ensure the water industry follows proper safety procedures. Homeowners can test their water to make sure it’s safe for consumption.
Water testing protects people from health risks that can occur from unclean or contaminated water. Modern chemistry and technological advancements make it possible to detect thousands of bacteria and chemicals in the water. Water tests can detect contaminants at incredibly small concentrations, allowing testers to identify potential risks and eliminate them.
How Does Water Testing Work?
Water testing uses chemicals or meters to detect contaminants in the tested water. Individuals can test their water with the following methods:
- Digital meters: Hand-held portable meters can detect various chemicals in the water.
- Test strips: Test strips detect chemical concentrations in water and change color to reflect the chemical concentrations.
- Color disk kits: Color disk kits work similarly to test strips, but they can detect a wider range of chemicals in the water.
- Laboratory testing: Laboratory testing involves a testing kit that homeowners can receive and send back to a lab for results.
While digital meters, test strips and color disk kits can give you an idea of your home’s water quality, laboratory testing is the most effective form of water testing. People typically use disk kits, color strips and meters as preliminary checks and depend on laboratory testing for the most accurate results.
When an individual orders laboratory water testing, they can pick up bottles from an approved location. After they collect a water sample (be sure to follow sampling directions) the water sample should be brought back to the approved location. Laboratory testing is beneficial because it allows homeowners to choose their own testing parameters, check for a wider range of contaminants and have peace of mind that their results are correct.
Why Is Water Testing Important?
Water testing is important because it keeps water clean and prevents environmental and health risks. Testing your water at least once per year has the following benefits:
1. Increased Safety
Contaminants can make water unsafe to drink, potentially causing health complications such as reproductive issues, gastrointestinal illnesses and neurological disorders. Some contaminants have scents, tastes or colors to indicate your water quality is off-balance, but others may go unnoticed until you experience uncomfortable health symptoms or notice changes to your water appliances.
Testing your water regularly can help you maintain safe water quality, prevent potential health complications and protect your water appliances from damage such as rust and corrosion. Access to safe drinking water is especially important for individuals with serious illnesses, people receiving chemotherapy or radiation, infants, children, pregnant women and transplant patients.
Boiling water can eliminate some contaminants in water, but it can’t eliminate all of them. Some contaminants such as lead can remain in water even after boiling it, so accurate water testing is the only effective way to ensure water is safe and properly treated.
2. Improved Quality and Taste
Water testing can also help you improve your water’s quality and taste. Some contaminants are harmless to your health but can still affect water’s taste and overall quality.
Water that’s too hard can dry your hair out in the shower, and water with high levels of sulfur can create an unpleasant odor in your home. Testing your water can help you determine how to improve your water’s taste, hardness and smell.
3. Ability to Track Water Supply Changes
Various factors can alter your water supply. Regular water testing allows you to track your water supply’s changes so you can address any potential issues before they cause health complications or damage your home’s water appliances.
4. Knowledge to Resolve Issues
Water testing indicates which contaminants are present in the tested water. Identifying which contaminants are causing issues provides the knowledge you need to resolve those issues.
For example, you can add a water softener to your water supply if you find that your water’s hardness levels are too high, or you can install a quality filtration system if you find that your water has high chlorine levels.
What Does Water Testing Test for?
Water tests analyze water for a wide variety of contaminants. Many water tests check water quality by testing common contaminants such as the following:
1. Total Dissolved Solids
Total dissolved solids (TDS) are dissolved metals, salts and minerals that can exist in water. Elevated TDS levels can make your water unsafe to drink. If you notice an unpleasant taste when you drink your water, it may have high TDS levels.
Your water supply can collect nitrates when the ground fails to fully absorb crop or soil fertilizers. If high nitrate levels seep into your water, you and your family may experience nausea and headaches. Nitrates can also cause serious health complications in infants. They’re tasteless and odorless, so water testing is the only way to detect them.
Iron may be present in your water if you notice a metallic taste or a reddish-brown color or see reddish stains in your sinks or drains. Water collects iron when rainwater or melting snow seeps through land surfaces with iron-bearing rocks and soil. Iron can also enter the water when pipes are corroded.
While iron isn’t known to cause health complications, it can damage or discolor plumbing and laundry fixtures. Water pipes and faucets can collect iron and clog, so it’s important to test for iron and decrease iron levels before damage occurs.
4. pH Levels
pH levels reflect water acidity. Low pH measurements indicate your water is corrosive and/or acidic. Acidic or corrosive water can leave blue or green stains behind, rust water fixtures and cause leaks. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, and a measurement of 7 indicates that water is neutral.
Iron, magnesium or calcium deposits in underground rock layers can cause hard water. If your home has hard water, you may notice corroded pipes, glassware spots and mineral buildup around your water fixtures.
Testing for water hardness can help you determine if you need to add water-softening hardware to your water appliances. Adding water softeners to your home can reduce scale buildup in your home’s plumbing, help your water heater consume less energy and decrease the amount of laundry detergent you need to use.
Municipalities manually add chlorine to water supplies to disinfect the water and protect the local population from waterborne illnesses. Because this process occurs before the water enters homes, municipal water supplies always contain chlorine.
While chlorine is necessary to protect from certain bacteria and pollutants, high chlorine levels can be unsafe. If your water’s chlorine levels are too high, your water may have an unpleasant scent and taste, and you and your family may experience health complications. Laboratory water testing can help determine if your water’s chlorine is at a safe level.
Do You Need to Test Your Well Water?
Testing well water is important because outside factors can affect your water’s safety and quality. Contaminants can seep through the soil and into your groundwater, or a broken well cap could allow pollutants to enter your water supply. Contaminants may go unnoticed, so it’s important to test well water to maintain safe levels.
Do You Need to Test City Water?
While city water is typically well-maintained, contamination can still occur. If your home has municipal water, testing your water is still beneficial. Old pipes and faulty plumbing can cause water contamination in any town or city, so regular testing can help you ensure you are receiving safe, high-quality water.
You can also follow instructions on from your water utility company in order to access thorough testing reports they are required to make available on a frequent basis.
How Often Should You Test Your Water?
Whether you have a municipal water supply or well water, you should test your water regularly to ensure it remains free of contaminants. Perform a standard drinking water test at least once yearly to maintain safe and healthy water. Individuals usually test their tap water for bacteria, unbalanced pH levels and high chlorine levels.
If you use well water, you should also test your well water supplies even if you don’t suspect any contaminations. Test your well water for pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, standard chemicals and bacteria.
Signs You Should Test Your Water as Soon as Possible
Apart from your annual water test, you should also test your water anytime you notice signs of contamination. Order a laboratory water test if you observe any of the following signs:
1. Cloudy Water
Clean, safe water appears crystal clear. Cloudy water can indicate that your home’s water is corroding the pipes that supply it. Clean water contains minerals, but it shouldn’t contain so many minerals that it appears cloudy.
Fill a glass with water and hold it up to a light. If it appears cloudy, you should test your water as soon as possible to determine what’s causing the cloudiness.
2. Colorful Water
Color also indicates that contaminants are present in water. If you notice any tinge of color in your water, testing is necessary to figure out why and resolve the issue. If you notice an orange or brown tint in your water, corroded faucets or pipes may be causing rust. A test can let you know if rust is present in your water, and you can contact a plumber to repair any issues.
Hot water commonly has a yellow tint if your water tank has a bacterial infestation. Testing your water can indicate if harmful bacteria are present so you can contact a plumber to flush your tank and chemically treat it to eliminate the bacteria.
3. Corroded Pipes or Discolored Water Fixtures
Testing your water if you notice signs of corroded pipes is crucial because it helps prevent further damage. Deteriorating pipes are often a result of water contamination. Replacing pipes and removing water contaminants prevents issues such as further contamination and flooding, so it’s essential to test your pipes as soon as you notice any corrosion.
You should also test your water if you notice any discoloration on your water fixtures. Contaminants can stain or leave residue on sinks, tubs and faucets, so it’s important to check for discoloration when you use these fixtures.
4. Chlorine Smell
Any odd smells in your water can indicate various contaminants, but a chlorine smell is especially concerning. While water treatment facilities use chlorine to eliminate bacteria, the safe amount they add to water doesn’t produce an odor.
If your water has a chlorine odor similar to the one you smell at a swimming pool, you should order a water test immediately to check chlorine levels, resolve the issue and prevent health complications.
5. Sulfur Smell
Sulfur has a very pungent odor similar to rotten eggs. Most water supplies have trace sulfur amounts small enough to go unnoticed, but high sulfur levels can cause an unpleasant odor in your home. Testing your water whenever you notice a sulfur smell is crucial because water with a high sulfur content can cause health complications such as dehydration and intestinal illnesses.
It’s uncommon to smell sulfur in cold water, but you should take notice if you smell sulfur while running hot water. The bacteria that can cause your water to appear yellow is the same bacteria that causes hot water sulfur odors. Test your water as soon as you notice any sulfur odor to prevent this contaminant from building up in your body.
6. Physical Distress
Physical distress is another indication you should test your water as soon as possible. If you or your family experience any long-lasting physical symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, rashes, itchy skin or dry hair without explanation, water contaminants may be the cause. Testing your water can help you resolve health issues and prevent further complications.
Where Can You Get Your Water Tested?
Understanding how to test if water is safe can help you prevent damage and health complications. You should test your water annually and any time you notice signs of potential contamination. The Department of Environmental Protection recommends ordering tests from a state-certified laboratory that tests drinking water.
Long’s EcoWater Systems, Inc. offers water testing for a wide range of contaminants. We test city and well water in eastern Pennsylvania and the Greater Lehigh Valley, and we can provide customized water treatment solutions based on test results. Our accurate water tests, in combination with a state certified water testing lab, determine the best treatment solutions for your home, providing the peace of mind that your water is clean and safe.
Test Your Water With Long’s EcoWater Systems
Accurate water testing is crucial to ensuring water is safe and determining the best treatment solutions when contaminants are present. It’s essential to test your water at least once per year and any time you notice signs of contamination.
Long’s EcoWater Systems, Inc. is a locally owned and operated business that has been helping customers test and treat their water since 1949. Our highly trained technicians provide the highest quality services to ensure accuracy and effective solutions. Contact Long’s EcoWater Solutions to request a water test and ensure your home has a safe, clean water supply.