Keeping A Healthy Well: Homeowner Options For Regularly Testing Water Quality

Posted on: 10 August 2015

The U.S. government recommends all home wells be tested at the local health department at least once a year, in the spring, to make sure they aren't contaminated with any dangerous substances or bacteria. If you want to keep your family and plumbing in good shape, it doesn't hurt to run private tests more frequently. Different areas are subject to a variety of pollution risks, and your home's risk can change based on environmental factors, so it's good to know exactly what you're drinking at all times.

Using A Home Testing Kit

If you're a pay-as-you-go type, home testing kits can allow you to pay only for the tests you want to run. For example, you might only need to buy a kit when you hear about local wells being contaminated with e.coli bacteria, or when there is a natural disaster near your home. Specific kits allow you to test your well for one of the many possible water problems, such as

  • Coliform bacteria
  • Lead and other metals
  • High salinity
  • Chemical contamination
  • Mineral content, or water hardness
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Nitrates
  • Acidity or alkalinity

Most kit sellers offer a package deal for buying different kinds of testing kits at once, but it should be noted that many testing mediums can expire if they go unused for long enough. Make sure you understand the manufacturer's recommended usage instructions to ensure that testing is accurate and safe.

Investing In A Water Monitoring System

If you plan to do testing more frequently, like every month or even every week, then an electronic monitoring system may be better suited to your needs. These devices range in cost and functionality quite a bit. The least expensive models are typically handheld electronic devices which sample and analyze water for all of the major contaminants that might endanger your health. These must be used manually and usually require batteries to function. 

Slightly more expensive are systems that automatically check the water on a set schedule, which need to be installed in your well. Some models run on electricity generated by the water flowing over them, while others need a power source. If the system detects a problem with the water, you'll typically be alerted by an alarm or flashing light. Advanced monitors may even be able to send you a text message or email with the details about detected contaminants or shifts in pH and salinity.

Keeping your drinking and bathing water safe is a high priority for any homeowner, but well-owners are uniquely burdened with the responsibility of treating and testing their water. If your water is unsuitable for use, contact your local plumber and an EPA representative for advice on how to get your well clean again.