Home water quality testing
Water is seldom pure, technically speaking. The trace minerals or impurities in drinking water give it a distinctive flavor. Problems arise when the impurities exist at high enough levels to impact health or give the water a bad taste. There are any number of quality issues that can beset home water supplies. Though these are usually associated with private water supplies, there can also be concerns with municipal water sources. As with air quality testing and mold testing, various water testing options are available to people who are worried about their drinking water.
If soaps do not lather well, water that's too hard may be the problem. Water which gives chrome surfaces a reddish stain contains iron; likewise, red and slimy stains suggest the presence of bacteria that thrive in the presence of iron. Corroding pipes and a metallic taste may indicate water with low pH or acidity levels. Black stains can indicate the presence of manganese or hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide or bacteria that live in sulfur will produce a distinctive rotten egg odor.
Potentially More Serious Issues
Perform a water test if tap water tastes or smells bad. Cloudy water may be caused by anything from suspended particles to decaying matter. In addition, there may be other problems which can't be detected by taste, sight or smell. These tend to be more serious, and include the presence of nitrogen compounds, pesticides, herbicides or other pollutants. In all cases, a water test should be conducted to determine the nature and severity of the problem.
Public water systems must meet strict requirements, but a water quality test can provide personal assurance that contaminants have not entered the water supply after leaving the treatment plant.
Water Testing Kits
Home testing of water is becoming increasingly popular. However, it is impossible to test for all possible contaminants, so choices must be made to determine the most likely culprits. Water testing kits often check for some or all of the following:
- Sulfates and sulfides
- Selected pesticides
- Nitrates and nitrites
- Total chlorine
Water Quality Analysis
People with private water supplies and those dependent on wells should invest in a professional water quality analysis. This should be done at the initial hookup stage, and if there are no problems at that time, continue testing at least once per decade thereafter.
Well testing can be performed by almost any environmental testing laboratory. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains standards for thousands of compounds, but the test requirements vary from state to state depending on known local conditions, including geology and past land use patterns. Water quality testing can yield information that can be used to safeguard health.
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