How to Test Water Quality at Home

It’s disturbing how the majority of American homeowners drink from public water treatment facilities without ever questioning its quality.

Our body weight is more than 50% water. Water helps to eliminate waste inside our body through the process of urination and sweating. It is so vital that human beings cannot last more than five days without it.

Is it enough that we meet the daily requirement for water intake?

Of course not

Ensuring the quality of the water we drink goes hand in hand with drinking at least eight glasses of water a day.

It’s quite hard to pinpoint the main source of these water contaminants because there are so many to begin with. According to the United States of Environmental Protection Agency, the word “contaminant” is defined as a physical, radiological, biological, or chemical substance residing in water. It is anything other than water molecules.

The harsh truth is that most of us don’t think about the water we drink. We simply turn on the tap, fill our glass with water, and drink. Water is necessary so that we can effectively maintain our body temperature; thus, it is important that the quality of the water we drink is free from contaminants.

Furthermore, not getting enough water can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can be the cause of cramps and muscle weakness. It can also increase our chances of getting a heat stroke or experience heat exhaustion. What’s worse than not getting enough water is consuming water that is dirty.

Here’s a fact: people use so many contaminants every day, most of which ends up in our rivers, lakes, and aquifers. These contaminants include solvents, pharmaceuticals, cleaning agents, weed killers, pesticides, and so much more. What we don’t know is that these contaminants tend to find their way into our water supply. The good news, on the other hand, is that there are ways to test the quality of the water we use at home.

You can learn more about water sources and the different types of contamination through this video posted by Interior Health. In the clip, VP Population Health and Chief Medical Health Officer Trevor Corneil explains the importance of clean and safe drinking water, and how much we take it for granted.

Signs That You Should Test Your Drinking Water

Even though most Americans have access to safe drinking water at home, we can never really be sure that what ends up in our glass is 100% free of any contaminants that may harm our health.

With that in mind, part of knowing how to test your water quality at home is figuring out when you should test it. Now, we all know that visually observing the water we drink is not enough. Even though the water is clear and odorless, it doesn’t mean that you should be too relaxed because there are contaminants that are clear and odorless. So, how do you detect these?

On top of that, I’m not saying that you should rely on bottled water to keep yourself from consuming these contaminants. With that in mind, the best way to go about it is to test the pH levels of the water. PH is actually a measurement of these electrically charged particles in a substance. It is also used to measure the acidity or alkaline levels of the substance.

The US EPA, the organization responsible for monitoring the quality of public drinking water across the country, reports that homeowners should ensure a pH level of at least 6.5 to about 8.5 when dealing with at-home water quality. However, if you do not have the time to perform a simple chemical test, there are other clear signs that you should be wary about when testing water quality.

  • Water has color

    One of the most obvious signs that the water you use at home is contaminated is if it possesses some color. It should be crystal clear, not rusty or brown. These colors indicate that there is a presence of manganese or iron in it. On another note, if your water at home possesses a bluish or greenish color, there may be copper in it.
  • Water has a disturbing smell

    Take a sniff and notice any unusual scent that your water at home may be giving off. If it smells like rotten eggs, it is a clear sign that you should have it tested. In fact, it is a clear sign that your water is contaminated. This smell typically comes from either the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas, decaying organic material from under the ground, or the presence of bacteria.
  • Water tastes salty

    Take a sip and check whether or not the water at your home tastes funny. If it has a metallic taste, chances are the water system that you are using has high mineral concentration. Some of the most common mineral water contaminants include manganese and iron.
  • Water tastes and smells like chlorine

    The presence of chlorine in water means that it is being treated. Don’t get me wrong, chlorine is used to kill off any bacteria present in the water; thus, disinfecting it of any harmful microorganisms. However, using chlorine to disinfect drinking water is not the best way to go about it. In fact, chlorine can be very harmful to your body.

What Should You Test For?

As I have explained, water contaminants can come from so many sources. In fact, your surroundings can tell you so much about the quality of the water you are drinking at home.

If your water supply at home is situated next to a septic tank or a leaking gas tank, it may be best to test the quality of the water, just to be sure. Furthermore, if there is livestock nearby, you may want to test your water for any presence of pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Nevertheless, if you live near a gas drilling company, a chemical plant, a gas station, a mining operation, a heavily salted roadway, a landfill, or a junkyard, all the more reason you should check the quality of your at-home water. Test your water for any presence of sodium, barium, strontium, chloride, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

If you or any of your family members keep experiencing gastrointestinal illness, you have to test your water for coliform bacteria. Any smell or a bad taste in your drinking water at home can pertain to the presence of heavy metals or hydrogen sulfide. Corroding pipes could mean that lead is present. On another note, if your water treatment equipment tends to wear out quickly, you should test your water for high levels of corrosion.

All of these may seem a lot, but knowing that there is something nearby that can tamper the quality of the water you drink at home is reason enough to worry. Besides, it’s better safe than sorry.

Now, here’s what you have all been waiting for – the different ways to test the quality of your water at home. It is important to go through the basics mentioned above so that you would know what you are looking for when you proceed to any of the following tips and tricks.

Testing Methods

  1. 1
    Get your hands on your local municipality’s water quality report

    The law states that your local water municipality should perform regular checks on the quality of the water supplies in your community. The results of these tests are made available to the public on a yearly basis in the form of a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).

    The CCR is published by the US EPA. You can also find your CCR for your state or country on the official website of the EPA. These can come in handy, and quite frankly, this is one of the easiest ways of knowing for a fact that the water you are drinking at home is safe.
  2. 2
    Use a home water test kit

    As mentioned earlier, it is important that you know what you are testing for. For this method of testing your at-home water quality, you must familiarize yourself with the different chemicals or contaminants that water is typically exposed to. Don’t worry, each test kit comes with a set of instructions.

    A home water test kit typically uses a number of strips, which contains what is known as reactants. This is a great way to test the quality of water in your home as it is fast, effective, and not to mention, very cheap. You can easily buy these from home improvement stores, online stores, and superstores.

    All you need to do is to expose each strip to the water used at your home. It should be room temperature water and you must submerge the strip for about five seconds while moving it back and forth in a gentle manner.

    As soon as you remove the strip from the water, it will slowly change color. These kits come in charts. You can check the results using the chart to determine whether or not there are any present chemicals, as well as the level of each chemical, in your water.
  3. 3
    Get your water tested by a laboratory

    Let me start by saying that testing the quality of your water through a laboratory can be quite expensive. However, it is deemed as one of the most accurate ways of knowing for a fact whether or not there are chemicals or contaminants in the water you drink at home.

    While laboratory test results may take a few days up to a week to arrive, you can be assured that the figures provided are complete and error-free. In fact, not only will the report provide you with a list of contaminants that may be present in your water, but it will also alert you of any health risks that may be involved.

    If you are an owner of a private water system, this may be the best option for you, considering the fact that your tap water is not tested by the local water municipality.

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Annual Water Quality Report

Now, I have noticed that some of the most accurate ways of getting a water quality report takes the longest or is the least frequent. Do note that there is a downside to this. Even though it can provide you with a high-level overview of what goes on in your pipes at home, there are some reports, such as the US EPA’s Annual Water Quality Report, that is only done twice a year.

With that in mind, you have to remember that contamination may occur outside the testing period. Furthermore, there are instances when spikes in a number of contaminants could happen. These reports may not be included in the annual EPA statements.

There are also certain contaminants that are not included in the reports performed by the EPA. We may never know what these unmeasured contaminants may do to our health. The worst part about this is that there are those that have no taste nor color, which makes it quite difficult to detect on our own.

While scientists have claimed that these unmeasured contaminants are extremely harmless, there are a number of studies that suggest how the combination of any two of these contaminants can result in various harmful chemicals.

As a result, the US EPA advises everyone to not solely rely on one way of testing the water quality at your home. Furthermore, you have to be able to detect any unusual occurrences, such as an upset stomach, recurring digestive issues, smelly water, rust-colored stains on your clothing, and any agricultural activities, landfills, or industrial plants nearby.

Final Thoughts

Remember, finding out what’s in your water before actually consuming it is a safety measure that everyone should follow. We can never be sure of what we are putting into our body, which is why it is best that we utilize every possible option we have.

In this case, there is no stopping you if you want to use all three ways of testing the water quality at your home. As I have said, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your health and that of your family’s.