Best Ways to Test Water Quality at Home

Water contamination is a severe problem we are facing nowadays due to various reasons.

Whatever the cause might be, ultimately, it will harm us if the contaminants are present at unacceptable levels.

So, it is essential to know what your drinking water supply has to save yourself a visit to the hospital.

In this article, we will let you know a few simple methods you can follow to test your water quality for the presence of any dangerous contaminants.

Best Ways of Testing Water Quality

In this section, we are going to explain a few water quality tests that you can do by yourself and others that need professional guidance.

1. Test strips

Using test strips to assess water quality is one of the simple tests that you can do at home.

Their working principle is quite easy. The test strips change their color corresponding to the concentration of the chemical substances in the water.

Take the test paper or plastic strip and dip it into the water sample and hold for a few seconds till it turns colorful.

Now, take the colored strip out and compare its color concentration to the color chart given in the kit.

If you find a match with any of the chemical’s color in the chart to your strip, it means that chemical is present in your water.

Most of these strips are for single use only and are disposed of after one test.

These are less accurate compared to other tests, especially if you don’t follow the instructions correctly, and the results can be considered only preliminary, not final.

What can be tested?

Contaminants like nitrate, iron, and manganese, chlorine, can be usually tested using this method.

2. Color disk test

Color disk tests are usually available for a wide range of tests and are reliable than test strips.

Take a reusable plastic tube and fill it with the water sample. Add the powder packet or a few drops of a liquid reagent to the sample.

Now, place the sample plastic tube in a small plastic viewing box. Inside the box, there is a plastic disk with a color gradient printed on it.

Rotate the color disk till you find a part that best matches the color of the sample.

The matched part on the disk gives you the concentration of the chemical. Like this, you can test for the water quality for the presence of any chemical contaminants.

Color disk tests are costlier and often have multiple steps, and you need to wait quite a bit, but the results are more accurate.

What can be tested?

Fluoride, nitrate, iron and manganese, and chlorine are usually tested using color disk tests.

3. Portable digital instruments

Handheld digital instruments like digital meters, colorimeters, and photometers are available to test the water quality.

These are lightweight, portable, and can be used multiple times to test various samples of water. They need batteries and calibration and are usually more expensive and delicate than the others.

Technicians or professionals mostly use digital systems than ordinary people, and they give the most accurate results than the other two testing methods stated above.

What can be tested?

Digital instruments are usually used to test for fluoride, iron, manganese, and chlorine.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), which is a mixture of inorganic salts, like sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, is monitored by measuring the conductivity of the water with a digital meter.  There is no test strip or color disk kit that can be used to test for TDS as a whole.

4. Free municipal water testing

There are many municipal water suppliers or local governments who offer at-home testing for free of cost.

If you request them for a water test, they will collect the sample and send it to a lab at the expense of your local government or water supplier.

They will let you know the results once they are out. This is one of the best options to explore as it is accurate than any other method.

5. Commercial testing

There are certain water testing facilities recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where you can send your water for testing. You can get the list from EPA official website.

You can mail the water sample directly to the lab facility, and they will tell you about the contaminants, minerals, toxins, etc. present in your water.

Especially contaminants like arsenic are best tested in a laboratory. Test kits for arsenic are often elaborate, and the results are inaccurate.

Commercial testing is the right choice if you have well water, as you won’t get any CCRs for well water. This testing method is very accurate but a bit expensive as you might need to pay the lab for testing.

6. Check with your water company

Your water company is supposed to give you reports called consumer confidence reports (CCR) annually required by the United States EPA.

The report includes your local drinking water quality, contaminants found in the water and alert you regarding the health risks that they pose.

Additionally, the report also consists of the water’s source, how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water.

Usually, the report comes along with your bill, or you can pay online to get a downloadable PDF.

You can also visit the water supplier’s website for the latest report. If you want to know the name and details of your water supplier, visit EPA’s website and look for your area.

7. Search the Environmental Working Group’s national drinking water database

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) maintains a database of water quality reports all over the country.

Simply enter your zip code or water company name and get the results.

EWG highlights chemicals above the health limit and legal limit for safe water. The EWG’s data also includes many compounds that aren’t regulated by EPA’s legal limits.

For these chemicals, it uses zero as the baseline, so water that contains any amount of the substances is flagged.

Always compare the healthy limit column with the legal limit column, and if the numbers are quite close for any contaminant, you should be concerned.

Why Knowing Water Contaminants is Important

The contaminants in the water pose a serious threat to our health.

After the Flint water crisis, several other cities in the US were also found to be suffering from lead poisoning.

Exposure to excessive lead-poisoned water over a long time can impair cognitive function and is harmful to infants, children, and pregnant women in particular.

A 2010 EPA water quality assessment reported that chromium-6 is present in 35 different cities along with other small places in the US.

Chromium-6 is a very harmful material and is known to cause cancer and other congenital disabilities in humans.

PFA’s in the water can cause cancer, hormone-related diseases, and congenital disabilities. It is noted that the states with PFA polluted water have higher cancer rates.

Nutrient pollution is another problem caused due to the presence of surplus amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, which increases the growth of toxic algae in the water and harms humans.

Bromoform and Uranium can cause chronic kidney disease, deformity of bones, and liver. Trihalomethanes in the water supply are also related to cancer and kidney risks. Radium could cause bone cancer.

If E.coli bacteria, which is usually found in fecal matter, ends up in your water supply, it could cause intestinal disease and illness.

Summary

Testing your water for any potential contaminants is the first step towards your family’s safety to avoid harmful effects and diseases.

We have listed a few methods to test your water quality for any contaminants. Hopefully, you find the one that is accessible to you and get your water examined.

You can test the water quality using test strips, color disk tests, portable digital instruments, free municipal water testing, commercial testing, check with your water company, or simply searching through the Environmental Working Group’s water quality reports.

Kenneth Wright
About Kenneth Wright

Kenneth in Biotechnology graduate and loves to write on topics related to science and technology. He uses his scientific research methodology to grasp concepts and then develop comprehensive articles on them.

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