Water quality can no longer be taken for granted. There are many variables that can come into play: the possibility of contaminated water, our aging water distribution system, unknown well-water quality, and the type of plumbing in your home. Many don’t realize it's common for municipalities to supply you with hard water too. If your home has water supplied by the city, it probably meets federal standards.
Two types of water testing kits
these are kits that usually come with strips and color indicators to check the results. DIY kits start at about $20 (for basic, lead-only testing) and run up to roughly $50 for a kit capable of detecting 20 or so potential contaminants.DIY kits are widely available online and in hardware stores that list the contaminants, they test for individually (rather than in generalities, such as “tests for metals and pesticides”). The lead had to be among them.
this is the more expensive option in which you need to take water samples and send them to the lab for a more detailed measurement of contaminants. This kit cost anywhere from $100 to $500 or more, depending on how comprehensive an analysis you decide to get. Send-away kits are capable of detecting a far wider range of contaminants than DIY kits. Both will tell you if you’ve got lead in your water—the ability to do so was one of our criteria. But a top-of-the-line send-away kit can detect 100 or more metals, industrial compounds, and farm chemicals. The labs that sell our send-away test kits must be certified by the federal or state EPA to conduct compliance testing on public water supplies; this means, among other things, that they have to use tightly defined testing methods and frequently demonstrate compliance with them. Many labs have additional national and international governing-body accreditations, including from the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Just like the DIY kits, send-away kits come in multiple versions that test for different ranges and categories of contaminants. We again selected each manufacturer’s most comprehensive kit and wound up with a final group of five contenders.
Common water contaminants and problems
In drinking water, it is tasteless and odorless. Most people are alarmed when they learn that their drinking water, from a public or private water source, may contain any amount of arsenic.
The water may be safe to drink and free from the lead when it leaves the plant, but it can encounter lead in service lines as it is transported from the plant to your home. Older homes with lead pipes could also contribute to a lead problem. The use of a home water filter using reverse osmosis is the most effective method for eliminating lead from drinking water supplies.
Cloudy Water or Turbidity
There are varying degrees of turbidity, but even if your water looks clear, it could still contain a high level of dissolved solids. To determine the turbidity level of your water, we suggest having your water tested for total dissolved solids.
Depending on where you live, your water may have iron in it, which can cause rusty-orange or black stains on clothes, fixtures, sinks, tubs, water-using appliances, and toilets. Iron can even alter hair color. Iron stains are very difficult to remove if you can get rid of them at all. Testing your water source will confirm the presence and type of iron in your water, so you can select the proper water treatment system to handle it.
As water moves through the earth, it dissolves rocks and minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium, making your water “hard.” Hard water is a real nuisance, leaving spots on glasses and silverware, scale in water-using appliances, on fixtures, shower doors, and tubs, and making hair dull and skin dry. Most homes have hard water, regardless of how you get your water. A simple, in-home water test will tell you how hard your water is, so you can choose the most appropriate water softener if needed.
Bacteria and Viruses
Each year there are millions of cases of waterborne acute gastrointestinal illness annually in the United States alone. These illnesses are often caused by bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that make their way into water supplies. Even sophisticated treatment plants cannot ensure that drinking water is completely free of bacteria and viruses. If you are concerned about bacteria and viruses in your water, have it tested.
Ways of testing the drinking water at home or office
Test strips can be ordered for you to test your own water. The strips detect the presence of certain chemicals and work by changing color, and then you compare the strip to a chart that can help show the concentration of the specific chemical. These types of tests are often used to determine the pH or chlorine amount in the water. Although the tests are easy to obtain and inexpensive, they’re not as accurate as other types of tests because they often have poor resolution, and it can be difficult to determine what the results actually mean for your health and safety.
Color Disk Kits
Color disk kits or drop test kits are other types of tests that can help determine the concentration of specific chemicals in your water. To use this test, you would obtain a sample of water in a plastic tube and then add either powder or a few drops of liquid reagent to the tube. The water will change color depending on the elements found in the water, and the color is compared to a color gradient disk that gives a closer reading of the concentration of the chemical than a test strip would. The test is a bit more complicated because of the technicalities involved, but they can provide a good amount of information about chemicals as well as microbiological elements, although microbiological tests require a day or two of incubation time for accurate results.
There are also handheld digital instruments that can be used to test your water. These provide accurate results but are more costly than the previous two types of tests. Proper training and calibration of the instruments are essential for getting accurate results, so the instruments are best handled by professionals. Luminescence testing devices can provide quick screening of bacteria in the water while electrochemical testers are useful for determining the pH, dissolved solids and salt, dissolved oxygen, and electrical conductivity of the water.
Professional Lab Tests
For the most thorough water analysis, it’s recommended that you have your water sent to a professional water testing lab. There are a number of tests available from these companies, from a standard scan to see how your water compares to EPA drinking standards to comprehensive health scans that will help determine whether or not you need additional filtration for your drinking water. Professional testing labs may use more advanced colorimetric comparison tests, photometric test kits, or spectrophotometers to measure what contaminants are in your water and at what levels.
Understanding Test Results for non-regulatory parameters
Alkalinity is a measure of the capacity of water to neutralize acids. Alkalinity is normally caused by the presence of bicarbonate salts of calcium and magnesium, and very occasionally sodium bicarbonate may contribute. The alkalinity & pH of the water is very closely linked. Testing both, the pH & alkalinity of water is important, as a very low or very high pH can be an indicator of problems with water quality. This is especially the case for water in swimming pools & spas, aquariums, and private water supplies. Alkalinity in water can protect against sudden changes in the pH level. Spas should have an Alkalinity of 80 – 160mg/l (ppm). If the alkalinity is below 80mg/l (ppm), then the pH can suddenly change. If a pH is too low, then water can be corrosive for metal parts, ie. lead from lead pipes can leach into water or metal parts may be damaged. If the pH is too high, then a disinfectant can not work properly. If the alkalinity is too high, then it can be very difficult to adapt or change the pH of the water. Should it be necessary to change the pH as well as alkalinity of water, then it is recommended to adapt the alkalinity first.
Free and Total Chlorine
Chlorine plays an important part in ensuring that water stays clean whilst it is being delivered to the home (sanitizing effect). There is no legal limit or guide value on the levels of chlorine, the levels however should be kept as low as possible whilst ensuring the quality of the water. Should you notice a smell or taste of chlorine occasionally, then this could also be due to maintenance work. Homes that are nearer to the water treatment facility may notice the presence of chlorine more.
If you find the smell unpleasant you could fill water in a jug, then put it in the fridge to cool down before consuming it as cold water loses the smell of chlorine. Always remember to throw away any unused water after 24 hours and clean the jug regularly.
Hardness is due to calcium and magnesium salts dissolved in the water. The classification of when water is considered soft or hard varies depending on the author. The water hardness classification according to the US Geological Survey is as follows:
Soft water 0-60 mg/l, moderately hard: 61-120 mg/l, hard 121-180mg/l, very hard: >181mg/l (ppm)
Effects on your home
Hardness greater than 80PPM: Detergents with softening agents are not completely effective in cleaning.
Hardness greater than 120PPM: Some scaling will occur in pipes and appliances
Hardness greater than 250PPM: The dishwasher is impossible to use without producing the film on dishes.
There are 2 distinct types of water test kits for home or office. We have the DIY kits which are most commonly available online or in old/any hardware stores, second is send-away kits which are more expensive and extensive options in which we get water samples and send them to the laboratory to check contaminants in the water.