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Water Quality Testing 101

As a first world nation, it’s easy to take water quality for granted. While it’s true that the EPA has strict regulations for public drinking water, that doesn’t mean that all sources of water are equally safe.

Safety and Quality Concerns

If you rely on privately sourced water — like well water — it is your responsibility to test and manage the water quality. Dirty or contaminated water is cause for great concern, as common contaminants like fecal bacteria, pesticides, mercury, lead, nitrates, and other chemicals and organisms can cause serious illness.

However, even if you rely on quality-regulated public water, there are milder quality issues that you may wish to investigate. Comparatively minor issues like hard water, water with slight impurity concerns that result in stained fabric, or water with a slightly distasteful flavor are all hazards that may prompt you to test your water.

Getting the hard facts — through testing — about your water’s quality can help you choose the best course of action for resolving any issues you may face.

Testing Options

If you wish to have your water tested, but are not confident about tackling the task yourself, contact a local lab that is qualified to run the tests for you. Not sure who to call? You’re in luck. The EPA provides a hotline (1-800-426-4791) you can phone to learn more about your local lab options.

If you feel comfortable testing your own water, there are several options available to you. The first — and easiest — is to utilize a simple, quick home water testing kit like First Alert (available online at Amazon, or locally at any number of big chain stores). First Alert is not only fast and easy, it also tests according to EPA standards. Small, portable tests like First Alert are great for providing immediate peace of mind whether at home, on vacation, away at school or visiting friends or relatives.

Some situations only call for a one time test, but others may necessitate ongoing testing. Those with private wells are encouraged to test their water quality at least once a year. If you live in an area where there is a great deal of mining, construction, pesticide use, or other disturbances, you may wish to test more frequently. Frequent tests are especially helpful in establishing a water quality history, records that become instrumental when trying to prove that someone else is responsible for contaminating your water.

There are a variety of products and options designed for long term testing. As experience and expertise will vary from user to user, one of the few universal pieces of advice would be to choose a product that is both durable and reliable for long term use. For example, water testing products from In-Situ not only provide highly accurate readings, they are also designed to withstand the challenges of long-term use.


The health benefits to testing water quality are undeniable. By testing your water, you receive a clear, scientific understanding of the specific contaminants in your water. This knowledge and understanding enables you to make informed decisions about purifying your water and ensures that you are not ingesting harmful chemicals or organisms. Less life-threatening matters can also be more easily resolved through testing, such as filtering solely for taste concerns, or refining your laundry methods.

Water testing poses the clearest benefits for those with private sources for drinking water, but everyone and anyone can benefit from learning more about the quality of such a constantly utilized resource.