Testing one’s drinking water can be intimidating to a household well owner, but it can be easy if you know a few basic steps, says the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).
If you are concerned about your well water, these three steps can help get owners the appropriate tests for contaminants that might present a health risk — or create taste, odor, or appearance problems:
1. Determine what you should test for in your water.
2. Obtain a reliable water test.
3. Get an interpretation of your test results so you can take any appropriate action.
An excellent place to start learning more about these three steps is the NGWA website,
What to test
NGWA recommends that well owners test annually for bacteria, nitrate, and anything of local concern: for instance, naturally occurring hazards, such as arsenic, or man-made, such as chemical or heavy metals from industrial or waste sites.
Most county health departments do some water testing, and many good owners are within a reasonable distance of a drinking water testing lab. Both are good places to start in finding out whether there might be a local issue.
Getting a water test
Knowing where to start in getting a water test isn’t difficult. Go to www.WellOwner.org, and “click” on the “Water Testing” tab near the top of the page.
Next, use these buttons:
• Click for county health department contact info” — This takes you to a webpage where you can access contact information for local health departments nationwide. Ask your health department if it tests water, and if so, for what and how much it costs.
• “Find a certified testing lab” — This takes you to a map where you can navigate to your state agency webpage to obtain information about certified drinking water testing labs.
Interpretation of your water test results
For an interpretation of test results, start with the agency or lab that did the test. If you need additional help, www.WellOwner.org links to an online water test interpretation tool located under the “Water Testing” tab. Type the values from your water test results into the appropriate fields in the online tool and it will explain the results — usually including the risks to health, any warranted actions, and appropriate water treatment technologies.