Your decision on what to test your water for should be based on the types of land use near your well and what your goals are for using your water such as domestic use, irrigation, agricultural or commercial uses.
Why Should I Test My Well Water?
Municipal city water systems test their water supplies regularly to ensure that the water is safe to drink. As a well owner, you are responsible for making sure your well water is safe.
Events such as floods, earthquakes or close proximity to agriculture, drilling or oil field activities are top reasons to test your well water regularly.
Most private wells provide a clean, safe supply of water. Contaminants can, however, pollute private wells. Unfortunately, you cannot see, smell, nor taste most of them. Consequently, you should test your well water on a regular basis.
Most Common Reasons for Testing
A common reason many folks want to test their water is to improve the aesthetic quality of the water and eliminate iron staining, white scale build-up, corrosion, and/or odors.
Before you can choose which type of treatment system to get to eliminate your staining, tastes, or odor problems, it is critical to have the water tested.
Should I Use a Certified Lab, or Do It Myself?
You definitely use a state certified laboratory if you need a test report for bank financing or when you first purchase your home.
If you live near an industrial area or suspect contamination by agricultural run-off, or other health-related problems, it is important to use a certified laboratory.
Once a year or at least every two years it is best to get a comprehensive test done by a licensed laboratory such as National Testing Lab's WaterCheck test.
There are many DIY test kits available if you are trying to solve problems related to taste, odors, iron and rust, sediment or staining.
The advantage of a do-it-yourself kit is you can get the results immediately and avoid the higher costs of a lab test. Once a year or at least every two years it is best to get a comprehensive test done by a licensed laboratory.
What Tests Should I Choose?
It's important to start with a general mineral analysis which includes nitrate plus coliform bacteria as well as general minerals and metals such as iron and manganese.
This type of test includes alkalinity, coliform bacteria, and other factors such as copper, hardness, hydrogen sulfide, iron, manganese, nitrate, nitrite, pH, sulfate, and total dissolved solids.
A general mineral analysis will tell you what is causing stains or sediment. If the water has a funny taste or odor, a general mineral analysis with bacteria will usually tell you what is causing the problem.
These tests show if the water will be corrosive to pipes, or form mineral scale in your pipes. It will also show the level of minerals and salts. If you are having problems with color in the water or brown staining, we recommend additional tests for tannins.
Coliform bacteria live in soil, on vegetation, and in surface water. Coliform bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and their feces are called E.coli.
Some strains of coliform bacteria can survive for long periods in soil and water and can be carried into well casings by insects. Coliform bacteria are the most common contaminants found in private water systems.
Private wells should be tested at least once a year for bacteria. However, bacteria are only one of many possible contaminants.
Lead and Copper
Testing for lead and copper should be done on “first draw” water that has been stagnant in the distribution pipes for at least six hours. If lead and copper levels are high due to plumbing, they can usually be reduced to acceptable levels by flushing the faucet for
a minute or two before collecting water for drinking.
Nitrate forms when nitrogen from fertilizers, animal wastes, septic systems, municipal sewage sludge, decaying plants, and other sources combines with oxygenated water. In infants under six months of age, nitrate exposure can cause a serious condition called methemoglobinemia or “blue-baby syndrome.”
Infants with this condition need immediate medical care because it can lead to coma and death. Test for nitrate if a pregnant woman or infant will be drinking the water.
Everyone should have their well water tested for nitrate at least once per year, as it can show if your well is under the influence of a nearby septic tank or other sources of nitrate contamination.
Test your water for nitrate regularly if you live in an area within ¼ mile of a corn, soybean or vegetable field.
Well owners should also test for nitrate regularly if their well is located near an area where fertilizers are manufactured or handled, or an animal feedlot or manure-storage area.
Solvents, Gas and Oil
Do test for organic compounds, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides as well if you live near gas stations, industry, agricultural areas or a major highway
Household and industrial solvents, gasoline and fuel oil are examples of volatile organic chemicals or VOCs. Some VOCs are relatively non-toxic, while others can cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive problems. Fuel oil and gasoline can enter groundwater as a result of a leaking storage tank or spill.
Pesticide and Herbicide Testing
Pesticides are chemicals used to control weeds and insects. Some of these have entered groundwater as a result of their use in farm fields. Others have been found in groundwater following spills and improper disposal. Long-term use of drinking water that contains pesticide residues may increase your risk of
Long-term use of drinking water that contains pesticide residues may increase your risk of
developing cancer or other serious health problems.
You should also consider a pesticide test if your well is within less than a mile where pesticides are manufactured or used. If your well is located within short proximity to a corn, soybean or vegetable field, you should test your well water for pesticides.
Well owners who are uncertain about the use of pesticides in their area may also want to consider having their water tested at least once every few years.
Choose the right test kit comparison chart
All owners of private wells should have their water tested for VOCs (volatile organic compounds at least once. Test wells that are located within ¼ mile of an active or abandoned gasoline station, farm fuel tank, dry cleaner, auto repair shop, bulk storage tank, or industrial site. They usually use solvents. These
They usually use solvents. These wells have about 25% chance of being contaminated with VOCs. Testing is very important because solvents, gasoline, and fuel oil are common in our environment. Paint thinners, dry cleaning
Paint thinners, dry cleaning chemicals, and industrial solvents can enter groundwater from spills and leaks. Leakage happens due to improper disposal, leaking storage tanks, and landfills.