Water Quality Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you’re buying a new home or just want to protect your investment, water quality testing can be a valuable resource. Get the answers to the most common questions about testing your water.
Finding out what’s in your water probably isn’t the first thing you think of when it comes to home maintenance. However, regular water quality testing can help keep you, your family and your property safe and healthy.
Water Quality of Private Wells
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates more than 13 million households rely on private wells for drinking water in the United States. Because private wells are unregulated, regular testing is critical to ensuring your water is safe to drink.
What Kind of Issues Can Be Determined Through Water Quality Testing?
Water quality testing is an easy way to confirm your well water is safe to drink. Common issues revealed through testing include:
- The presence of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites
- High nitrate levels
- Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, copper and many more
- High levels of organic chemicals
- The presence of radionuclides including radium and uranium
- Excessive fluoride
How Often Should I Test the Water Quality of My Well?
The EPA recommends testing your well water quality every year. This includes testing for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels. If you are concerned about any other potential contaminants, ask your tester about them specifically.
What Can Cause Contamination in My Well Water?
There are a number of ways well water can become contaminated. Most commonly it comes from heavy water runoff, snowmelt or underground seepage. If any of the following are located near your well, it’s worth considering a water quality test:
- Heavy agricultural activity and the use of pesticides and fertilizers
- Mining or industrial activity
- Storage of household chemicals
- Natural and environmental occurrences or disasters
- Septic tanks and leach fields
How Can I Tell if My Water Is Contaminated?
There are a number of red flags when it comes to water contamination. The biggest giveaways are unusual tastes, odors or colors. While those can be easy to spot, many contaminants are not obvious to the naked eye and can only be confirmed by lab testing. If you are suspicious, it’s always better to play it safe.
What Are the Health Risks of Water Contamination?
The health risks of water contamination can vary significantly. The presence of bacteria and parasites may cause shorter-term effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Long-term exposure to chemicals and heavy metals such as lead can cause internal organ damage, birth defects and even cancer.
How Does Well Water Quality Testing Work?
Water quality testing is fairly simple and doesn’t require significant time or special equipment. A certified inspector will collect a sample of your water in a sterile container and send it to a lab for analysis. In the case of well water, the inspector will likely collect a sample at the well, as well as from your tap for comparison. In many cases you can get your results in three to five days.
How Much Does a Water Quality Test Cost?
Water quality testing is surprisingly affordable.
What Are My Treatment Options?
When you get your water quality test results back, your certified inspector will review them with you and discuss treatment options. Depending on the findings, it could be something as simple as a well water filtration system.
Public Utility Water Quality
The Environmental Protection Agency sets strict standards for drinking water from public utilities. There are legal limits on over 90 contaminants, and the EPA also sets regular testing schedules and procedures water systems must follow. While water from public utilities is much less prone to contamination, that doesn’t mean it’s immune.
How Often Should I Test Water From Public Utilities?
Water from public utilities does not need to be tested as regularly as well water. Community water systems are required to test regularly and report their findings to customers annually. As always, if you have any suspicions about contaminants in your water it’s worth performing a test for peace of mind.
Why Would I Test Water From a Public Source?
Despite strict guidelines and regular testing, there are several scenarios where you would consider testing your water from a public source:
- Environmental or natural disasters in the area
- Lead pipes connecting to the water main, most common in homes built before 1986
- Changes in taste, color or odor
- Mineral build ups or deposits in and around pipes, fixtures and appliances
My Water Quality Testing Options
It might be tempting to purchase an at-home testing kit, but there are several reasons this is a job to leave to the professionals:
- At-home tests are very basic and do not test as thoroughly as a certified lab would.
- Professional inspectors are trained in collecting a sterile sample to avoid outside contamination.
- Inspectors can review test results with you and help determine the best course of treatment.
- If you’re purchasing a property with well water, a water quality test is often required by the mortgage lender as part of the home inspection process.
Find the Certified AmeriSpec Inspector Near You
With 150 locations across the United States, there is a certified AmeriSpec inspector available to help you with your specialty inspection needs. If you want to know more about what’s in your water and get a well water quality test or water bacteria test, connect with an AmeriSpec inspector today!