United States
     Environmental Protection
Home    Water    Testing
Should I Have My Water Tested?
The answer to this question depends on several factors. It
concerns your health and the health of your family, so you
need to know some basic facts.
In addition to illness, a variety
of less serious problems
such as taste, color, odor and
staining of clothes or fixtures
are signs of possible water
quality problems. Other
things to think about include
the nearness of your water
well to septic systems and the
composition of your home's
plumbing materials.
This fact sheet provides
information to help you decide whether or not to have your
water tested, and if so, suggested tests for your situation.
   Do you suspect lead maybe in some of your
   household plumbing materials and water service
     OST water systems test Tor lead as a regular part or
    water monitoring. These tests give a system-wide
    picture, but do not reflect conditions at a specific
    household faucet.
    If you want to know if your home's drinking water
    contains unsafe levels of lead, have your water tested.
    Testing is the only way to confirm if lead is present or
    Some faucet and pitcher filters can remove lead from
    drinking water. If you use a filter to remove lead, be
    sure you get one that is certified to remove lead by NSF
    For more information, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/
    lead, or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at
   Are you considering a home water treatment unit?
    remove before contacting potential dealers. Be informed
    so you can make the right decisions. To help you, please
    visit: www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/faq.htmltfhwtu and
                       Public Water Systems
                       When you turn on the tap, where does the water come
                       from? If you pay a water bill, you are purchasing water
                       from a public water system, where your water is monitored,
                                        tested and the results reported to the
                                        federal, state or tribal drinking water
                                        agencies responsible for making sure it
                                        meets the National Primary Drinking
                                        Water Standards. Your water company
                                        must notify you when contaminants
                                        are in the water they provide that may
                                        cause illness or other problems.

                                        Most people in the United States
                                        receive water from a community water
                                        system that provides its customers with
                       an annual water quality report, also known as a Consumer
                       Confidence Report. Normally, you will receive it with
                       your water bill once a year in July. The report contains
                       information on contaminants found, possible health effects,
                       and the water's source. If you do not receive a report,
                       contact your water company for this information.

                       Private Water Supplies
                       If your drinking water does not come from a public water
                       system, or you get your drinking water from a household
                       well, you alone
                       are responsible
                       for assuring
                       that it is safe.

                       For this reason,
                       routine testing
                       for a few of the
                       most common
                       is highly recommended.  Even if you currently have a safe,
                       pure water supply, regular testing can be valuable because
                       it establishes a record of water quality.  This record is
                       helpful in solving any future problems and in obtaining
                       compensation if someone damages your water supply.

The following items will help you determine when to test
your private drinking water supply.

    How frequently should I test?
    Test water every year for total coliform bacteria,
    nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels,
    especially if you have a new well, or have replaced
    or repaired pipes, pumps or the well casing.

    Do you expect to have a new baby in the
    Test for nitrate in the early months of a pregnancy,
    before bringing an infant home, and again during
    the first six months of the baby's life. It is best
    to test for nitrate during the spring or summer
    following a rainy period.

    Do you have taste, odor and staining issues?
    Test for sulfate, chloride, iron, manganese,
    hardness  and corrosion, and every three years.  If
    you suspect other contaminants, test for these also.

    Have you had a chemical or fuel spill or leak
    near your water supply?
    Test your well for chemical contaminants, such
    as volatile organic compounds.  Tests can be
    expensive; limit them to possible problems specific
    to your situation. Local
    experts can tell you about
    possible impurities in your

    Is someone in your
    household pregnant
    or nursing an infant?
    Are there unexplained
    illnesses  in your family?
    Do you notice a change in
    water taste,  odor, color or
    clarity? You may need to
    test more than once a year.

    Do you know who can test your water?
    Often county health departments will help you
    test for bacteria or nitrates.  If not, you can have
    your water tested by a state certified laboratory.
    You can find one in your area by calling the
    Safe  Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or
    visiting www.epa.gov/safewater/labs.
             Collecting Samples
             Most testing laboratories or services supply their own
             sample containers. Use the containers provided and
             carefully follow the instructions given for collecting,
             preserving and handling water samples. Samples for
             coliform bacteria testing must be collected using sterile
             containers and under sterile conditions. Some procedures
             require that water runs from an outside tap for several
             minutes before filling the sample containers.  Laboratories
             may sometimes send a trained technician to collect the
             sample or to analyze the sample directly in your home.
             Ask if this service is available, since you may obtain better
             samples and more reliable test results.
Conditions or nearby activities
Recommended Test

Recurrent gastro-intestinal illness
Coliform bacteria

Household plumbing
contains lead
pH, lead, copper

Radon in indoor air or region is
radon rich 1

Scaly residues, soaps don't lather

Water softener needed to treat
Manganese, iron

Stained plumbing fixtures,
laundry 1
iron, copper, manganese

Objectionable taste or smell
Hydrogen sulfide,
corrosion, metals

Water appears cloudy, frothy or
colored 1
Color, detergents

Corrosion of pipes, plumbing
1 Corrosion, pH, lead

Rapid wearof water treatment
equipment 1
pH, corrosion

Nearby areas of intensive
Nitrate, pesticides, coliform

Coal or other mining operation
Metals, pH, corrosion

Gas drilling operation nearby
Chloride, sodium, barium,

Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and
near gas station or buried fuel
tanks |
Volatile organic
compounds (VOC)

Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory
or dry-cleaning operation nearby
VOC, Total disolved solids
(IDS), pH, sulfate, chloride,

Salty taste and seawater, or a
heavily salted roadway nearby
Chloride,TDS, sodium
Office of Water (4606)
www. e pa .g o v/safewate r
EPA 816-F-05-013 May 2005