To Test or Not to Test … Your Drinking Water

The quantity and quality of water you drink is important to your health, but what do you really know about your water quality, and do you need to treat it?

Side view of elderly woman drinking water

I often get asked “should I treat my water?” Not to be vague, but more to get homeowners thinking, I respond, “it depends on the quality, and the only way to know is to test the water.”

As mentioned in my last post, if you are on a public water supply, it is regulated by EPA, and your water utility is regularly testing the quality for about 95 contaminants. Further, annual consumer confidence reports are available from your water utility describing the water quality. Check out the report and become informed about your water supply and quality!

**Note, the contaminant lead does not come from the water source, rather leaches from household plumbing (pipe and fixtures) if you have older metal plumbing and your water is low in pH and has elevated chloride. If this is the case for your home, testing for lead is recommended.

A glass of water macro shotIf water comes from a private well, the homeowner is responsible for testing and treating the water. So back to the question of treating or not treating. How do you know what to treat for if you do not know the quality? If you have not tested your well water, contact your local county health department and ask for what to test for and get a list of certified labs that you can send your water samples to (these labs will provide complete sampling equipment and instructions).

Testing for coliform bacteria, E. coli, chloride, copper, hardness, nitrate, pH, lead, manganese, total dissolved solids, sulfates and any local contaminant (check with health department) is suggested every three years. Annual testing for coliform bacteria, E. coli and nitrates to ensure there is no contamination from animal waste is recommended. EPA Water FilterOnly with the test results will you know whether treatment is necessary.

The good news is that if one or more of the results is above the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL), there are several types of filtration available to get water within the safe drinking levels. Filtration can be expensive to buy and maintain, so it makes sense to install only the filtration needed. Filtration units may need only be installed on the faucet that supplies your drinking or cooking water. Other systems treat the entire house as with a water softener to reduce hardness or a reverse osmosis system to reduce salt and other contaminants.

To maintain the effectiveness of the filtration and water quality is critical to follow the recommended maintenance including changing filters. Several online drinking water tools can help determine what treatment system is recommended based on your water quality. Check out https://www4.des.state.nh.us/DWITool/Welcome.aspx  and http://dwit.psiee.psu.edu/dwit.asp for more information.

Invest in your health and get to know your drinking water quality!

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