While a cold drink of water from the tap seems clean and refreshing, you might not know what else is in your water. Contaminants can easily leak into your well or get into your pipes. How can you know if you should test your water quality?
Why Should You Test Your Water?
Arsenic, pesticides, heavy metals and sewage are some of the most common contaminants in water supplies — not so appetizing. Testing your water is crucial because it protects you from ingesting these kinds of things.
Drinking unclean water can lead to sickness and chronic health issues, so you should make sure it’s safe. For example, lead can especially harm pregnant women and infants. Drinking from a clean source is vital for your health and a necessary part of your day. Plus, you probably want to feel comfortable getting a glass from your tap.
When Should You Test Your Water?
Even if you’ve tested your water in the past, you should do it again. Pipes wear down over time, meaning perfectly safe water can quickly become unclean with time. State and federal agencies recommend you assess its quality once a year at minimum and every three years at most — although it may vary depending on your location.
Can You Tell If Your Water Is Unclean?
Even if your well or water tower is clean, your pipes may be bad. For example, even though the EPA banned lead pipes in 1986, there’s a chance your home or city still has them. Many places simply haven’t updated their infrastructure.
In fact, roughly 25% of people worldwide don’t have access to sanitized drinking sources. How do you tell if your tap water is safe to drink? Even though it can still be unclean when it seems fine, you can look for signs to be sure something is off.
You should test it right away if it smells, isn’t clear, foams or tastes odd. Those are red flags that your water may have contaminants. You should still check regularly, even if it seems fine — it’s always better to double-check to ensure you stay healthy.
How Can You Know If You Should Test?
You might have access to some helpful information online that can help you come to a decision. You should receive a Consumer Confidence Report in the mail every year by the beginning of July. It tells you how clean your drinking water is and where it comes from. The EPA has an online interactive tool to find your local records.
However, the downside of waiting for the report is that it only goes to people who live in the city — you won’t get one if you use well water. Even then, people who live in a town might have to track down their landlord or supplier if they don’t mail the report directly.
It’s still essential to do your own quality check occasionally. You might assume you’re safe, but around half of all well water systems in the U.S. don’t meet every quality standard. Even if the supply is clean, the pipes next to your house may leak contaminants. The only way to be sure about the safety of your tap water is to get a test done.
How Much Do Tests Tests Cost?
While you might be able to get a water quality test for free from your community, there’s no guarantee — especially if you live in a rural area. Standard kits usually cost between $20-$150, but the price depends on where you are and what you’re looking for.
Generally, you’ll pay more to do a more extensive assessment. For example, checking for 50 types of contaminants will probably be more expensive than 10. Still, you might want to consider paying a little bit extra to ensure your health.
What Type of Test Can You Do?
While you can test for every pollutant on the planet, it’s not necessary to do so. Narrowing down what you want to check for is much more affordable and practical. You should mainly look at pH and bacteria levels. You can examine more in-depth if your drinking water has a specific taste, smell or look.
While you can get a basic kit online or from the EPA, they might have limited details or accuracy. Alternatively, you can send a sample to a lab and have professionals do the work for you.
Test To Improve Your Health
You should get your water quality tested for more peace of mind. It’s a simple solution that can instantly improve your health, especially if you use a well or have noticed odd tastes. You’ll feel much more comfortable grabbing a cold glass from the tap if you know what you’re drinking.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.