How to Test Water Quality at Home: Your Complete Guide

Jeremiah Castelo Potable Water 0 Comments

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Of the many various substances that can potentially show up in U.S. water systems, 90 of them are strictly regulated by the EPA.

These regulations are meant to protect residents from potentially debilitating health effects and water system damage that some of these contaminants can cause.

While municipal water treatment systems generally do a great job of making the public water supply safe for human consumption, there are some important instances where testing the water supply yourself becomes necessary.

Whether it be for a routine check on your water well, investigating an odd smell in your plumbing, or surveying the quality of a nearby stream, testing the quality of your water will provide you with the necessary information for implementing the right treatment plan.

Failing to analyze the water quality before installing a purification system can cause costly mistakes.

And while laboratory testing will always provide the most accurate analysis, there are many home testing kits that allow you to easily perform the test yourself—whether it be through testing devices for immediate results or collecting samples to send to a lab.

We'll explore all of these options in this article and provide you with what you need to become proficient at testing water quality at home.


This article will cover:

  • How to measure water quality
  • Identifying contaminants in the water supply
  • How to test water quality at home
  • Best water quality test kits for home
  • Best laboratory testing services
  • Best well water testing kits





water faucet / cdc / unsplash

There are several various reasons why one would want to perform a water quality test on their supply.

Ultimately, drinking contaminated water can be very dangerous to your health. And allowing untreated water to run through your system can also be costly and require repairs in the long term.

But installing a water purification system without accurate knowledge of the quality of the water can create unnecessary costs, cause damage to the water system, or worse, be ineffective in stopping harmful contaminants. That's why a detailed analysis of what's in the water is always the first step.

But does everyone need to run a test? Whether the water source is publicly supplied through a municipality or privately owned via a well, here are some specific scenarios that give good reason to test your water.


Surveying a new water source

When purchasing a property that includes a private water source such as a well or a stream, identifying the contaminants in the water will reveal a lot about the conditions of the entire terrain.

Groundwater sources often have high concentrations of hardness and iron. While hardness and iron aren’t necessarily a health concern if consumed, they can cause aesthetic and odor problems and can be damaging to the water system if left untreated.

Shallow wells, because of the proximity to the surface, have a higher probability of containing harmful microorganisms which can cause alarming health problems if consumed.

Surface water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams are much more likely to contain harmful pathogens due to the presence of fecal particles from animals.

Surface water can also contain decaying plant material, algae blooms, and pollutants from runoff after heavy rainfall.

Testing the water source and identifying the potential contaminants can give you an idea of what type of purification system will best suit your home.


Heavy metals in the water supply

Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and copper can be leached into the water supply from corroded pipes in the plumbing system. While newer homes are equipped with corrosion-resistant PVC pipes, many older homes built with galvanized metal pipes will present this problem as the pipes begin to age.

Testing the water supply for the presence of heavy metals will help identify the level of corrosion and the potential need for repair. Heavy metal consumption can cause cognitive illnesses and neurological problems.


Water hardness

While more common with private water sources such as a well, water hardness can also occur in municipal water systems.

Water hardness is characterized by the concentration of dissolved minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron in the water supply. While water hardness isn’t necessarily harmful if consumed, it can cause expensive problems to the water system if left untreated. Hardness can cause calcium deposits and limescale build-up in the pipes, faucets, and showerheads.

Testing the water supply for hardness will give an accurate measure of the minerals that are present which can help identify the best solution for reducing hardness. Typically, a water softener, water condition, or iron filter is the way to go.


Planning for a whole house water filter 

Whole-house water purification units can involve a variety of different components, each with its own filtration purposes. Identifying the varying contaminants in the water supply can help decide how to customize your whole-house water filter for your specific needs.


Routine testing

Those who receive their water supply via a well should, and are often required to, do routine testing of the water quality to check for changes. An increase in the presence of certain contaminants can indicate changes to the aquifer or potential contamination from an outside source.


Health concerns

Those with specific health concerns that are sensitive to certain chemicals and pathogens may need to have a full analysis of the water supply to be able to identify the proper filtration system. Nursing mothers and immune-deficient individuals are often among these groups.


Notice something odd?

Finally, our best indicators for a change in the water supply are our senses. If you taste, see, or smell something odd coming from your faucets such as a rotten-egg smell or discoloration, it could indicate a significant contamination problem that needs to be addressed. The first step would be to test it.






How to Measure Water Quality



water testing kit / little-pete / creative commons

A contaminant is basically any substance within the water supply that we’d have an immediate concern for. It can be bacteria, sand, dissolved calcium, or agricultural byproducts, to name a few. Not all contaminants are necessarily harmful—and some are only harmful at certain levels. And even safe drinking water is still expected to have small amounts of contaminants present.

But before we have a look at the types of water contaminants you’d be testing for, we’ll cover how to measure them.


Understanding the units of measurement

First, we’ll need to go over a bit of math. While it can get pretty complex, especially with laboratory measurements, we’ll do our best to break it down as simply as possible.

When testing for contaminants, our goal is to find out the concentration of these contaminants within a given amount of water.

In other words, we’re looking for how much contamination (in terms of weight) exists in a certain amount of water (in terms of volume).

Milligrams per liter

The simplest formula to use is in milligrams per liter or mg/l.

With this formula, we’re able to identify the amount of contamination in weight (mg) within the volume of water (l).

This formula is also known as weight by volume.

For example, if we tested a water supply for iron and came up with a result of 0.7 mg/l, that means there are 0.7 milligrams of iron in every liter of water.

In some cases, this may be considered a fairly high concentration of iron that would require treatment.

Parts per million

With this weight by volume concept in mind, we can simplify it even further.

Milligrams per liter can be directly represented in terms of parts per million.

In fact, 1 mg/l is equal to 1 ppm.

So, in the above example, our results of 0.7 mg/l of iron could be represented as 0.7 ppm of iron in the water supply.

In many cases, ppm is a more widely used unit of measurement due to its ease of convertibility between metric and standard units.

Moving forward, we’ll focus more on ppm as a unit of measurement.


EPA Primary and Secondary Standards for water contamination

In order to maintain safe drinking water practices, many government agencies have standard levels that each contaminant should remain at in order to be considered potable.

These standards set a maximum ppm for each contaminant for the water to be considered safe.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the premier agency in the U.S. for monitoring water quality, splits the testing standards into two groups, primary standards and secondary standards.

Contaminants that follow the primary standards are considered dangerous to one’s health if consumed while contaminants that follow the secondary standards are generally considered to cause functional and aesthetic problems to the water system.

For example, Cryptosporidium, a dangerous pathogen that follows the EPA’s primary standards, has a standard of zero ppm (zero mg/l). Meaning, you should not have any trace of it in your water whatsoever or risk serious health problems.

Compare that with Iron, which follows the secondary standards, is allowed up to 0.3 ppm (0.3 mg/l) before the water can cause aesthetic problems, but isn't harmful if consumed.

Have a look at the EPA's website of standards for the full list of contaminants:






What water contaminants are you testing for?


waterborne diseases

bacteria / creative commons

The list of possible contaminants is very extensive, many of which can exist naturally in a variety of water sources. While not all of them are harmful, the ones that are can be very debilitating if consumed.

And the effectiveness of water purification systems can vary greatly depending on the type of contaminant which is precisely why testing is so important. You need to know what’s in the water before you can know how to treat it.

In this section, we’ll have a look at the different types of contaminants, what makes them dangerous, what levels are considered safe, and how to test for them.

The EPA categorizes contaminants according to their nature. These are physical contaminants, chemical contaminants, and biological contaminants.


Physical contaminants in water

Physical contaminants are more commonly found in groundwater and surface water sources which can include sand, silt, and other large debris particles—they're mostly filtered at the source and typically don’t make it far enough through the water system.

These contaminants are generally visible to the naked eye and don’t require further testing unless testing for certain physical properties such as turbidity or TSS, which we’ll explore later.

Most physical contaminants follow the EPA’s secondary standards since they’re less likely to cause illness in humans and more likely to cause problems to the water system.


Biological contaminants in water

The biological contaminants category refers to living microorganisms that exist in the water supply which include bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Biological contaminants are commonly present in surface water sources such as lakes and rivers—likely due to fecal particles from animals.

Biological contaminants can also exist in shallow wells with a water table closely connected to a stream or in water distribution systems with poor sanitation practices. Developing regions with unregulated sanitation often experience many biological contaminants in the drinking water supply.

Because of their high potential for causing severe illness in humans, biological contaminants are regulated according to the EPA's primary standards.

Bacteria: 0 ppm (0 mg/l)

Bacteria are single-celled organisms made up of a variety of different species. Some of the most common waterborne bacteria are e. Coli, Legionella, Salmonella, and Shigella.

Due to the wide variety of bacteria that can exist in water, testing for each species individually is impractical. Therefore, testing for widespread indicator bacteria such as coliforms is a more suitable approach.

Coliforms are a group of closely-related bacteria that exists throughout the environment and are very easy to test for. While not necessarily harmful on their own, their presence in the water supply may indicate the presence of other harmful bacteria as well. Testing for Total Coliforms may help identify if further testing for more dangerous bacteria is needed.

All bacteria should have a presence of 0 ppm (0 mg/l) according to the EPA's primary standards.

Viruses: 0 ppm (0 mg/l)

Viruses are the tiniest of waterborne pathogens, affecting the DNA structure of human and animal cells. Unlike bacteria, viruses require a host to reproduce.

Some of the most common waterborne viruses are Hepatitis, Norovirus, and Rotavirus. Contracting a waterborne virus can make one extremely ill with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.

All viruses should have a presence of 0 ppm (0 mg/l) according to the EPA's primary standards.

Protozoa: 0 ppm (0 mg/l)

Protozoa are a group of microorganisms that are parasitic in nature, requiring a host to reproduce. Protozoa are larger in size than bacteria and viruses and often have protective membranes, making them more resistant to disinfection than other pathogens.

Like bacteria and viruses, protozoa are typically found in surface water sources where animal feces may be present.

All protozoa should have a presence of 0 ppm (0 mg/l) according to the EPA's primary standards.


Chemical contaminants in water

The chemical category of contaminants is certainly the most diverse group of contaminants on this list, ranging from naturally occurring elements to man-made chemicals.

Because there is such a wide variety of chemical contaminants that can exist in the water supply, both naturally and synthetically, a first-level testing method should be applied first to get a general idea of the presence of potential contaminants.

A home testing kit would be a great way to get a general idea of the structure of the water. The chemicals that are present can be further tested at a laboratory to get exact levels and thus better treatment options.

Organic vs Inorganic

Chemical contaminants are classified as either organic or inorganic. While these terms may seem to refer to whether a contaminant exists naturally or is man-made, it actually refers to its chemical makeup.

Inorganic compounds refer to any chemical that lacks the carbon element while organic compounds include the carbon element.

Inorganic Chemical Compounds

Inorganic compounds often come from rock formations within the earth’s crust and are therefore more common in groundwater than in surface water sources. Some inorganic compounds such as calcium and magnesium are beneficial for human consumption at low doses, others such as arsenic are highly toxic.

Problematic Elements:

Iron: < 0.3 ppm (0.3 mg/l)
Manganese: < 0.05 ppm (0.05 mg/l)

Like the minerals that cause water hardness, these problem elements are common in groundwater sources and are more of an aesthetic nuisance than a health concern.

Iron and Manganese can cause discoloration to the water and piping system.

Heavy Metals:

Arsenic: 0 ppm (0 mg/l)
Cadmium: < 0.005 ppm (0.005 mg/l)
Copper: < 1.3 ppm (1.3 mg/l)
Lead: 0 ppm (0 mg/l)
Mercury: < 0.002 ppm (0.002 mg/l)

Heavy metals can cause numerous health problems in individuals if consumed. These health problems can include neurological issues, digestive issues, liver disease, and cancer.

Heavy metals can either exist naturally in the water supply, enter the water supply through industrial contamination, or be leached into the water supply via corroding pipes.

Fluoride: < 2 ppm (2 mg/l)

While fluoride can be found naturally in groundwater and surface water sources, some municipalities add fluoride to the public water supply as a dental benefit. Small amounts of fluoride have been proven to have some benefits in strengthening teeth but too much fluoride can cause some serious health issues.

Nitrates: < 10 ppm (10 mg/l)
Nitrites: < 1 ppm (1 mg/l)

Nitrogen exists naturally in soil and is an active ingredient in gardening fertilizer. Bacteria in the soil convert Nitrogen into Nitrates/Nitrites, a consumable form for plants.

Excess nitrates/nitrites in the soil can leach into the water supply, causing health problems for humans.

Organic Chemical Compounds

While the term “organic” may seem to indicate a naturally occurring substance, it merely refers to the presence of the carbon element. Ironically, many substances which include the carbon element are actually man-made—existing as pesticides, industrial byproducts, and pharmaceuticals drugs.

Because of its close relation to industrial and agricultural byproducts, often resulting in the pollution of water sources, organic compounds are often found in surface water sources in close proximity to potential contamination sites. Some organic compounds can even be found in municipal water sources.

Some organic compounds can pose a serious health risk if consumed, often resulting in neurological or gastrointestinal disorders or even cancer.

Organic compounds are further divided into two groups: VOCs and SOCs.

VOCs

Benzene: < 0.005 ppm (0.005 mg/l)
Carbon tetrachloride: < 0 ppm (0 mg/l)

VOCs, volatile organic compounds, are compounds that vaporize easily into the atmosphere. These include industrial chemicals such as benzene and carbon tetrachloride.

SOCs

Glyphosate: < 0.7 ppm (0.7 mg/l)
Atrazine: < 0.003 ppm (0.003 mg/l)

SOCs, synthetic organic compounds, are less likely to vaporize into the air. These include agricultural herbicides and pesticides such as Glyphosate and Atrazine.


Other Water Properties

Hardness

We’ve addressed the basics of hardness earlier when mentioning the beneficial inorganic compounds of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. While these elements aren’t necessarily harmful to consume—and can, in fact, have health benefits in small amounts— excess concentrations of these minerals can cause water hardness.

Water hardness is the over-concentration of minerals that can cause build-up within the water pipes and cause calcium deposits on faucets, showerheads, and other fixtures.

Water hardness can also reduce the efficiency of soap lathering and can cause irritation to sensitive skin and hair.

While not a health concern, hardness is more of an aesthetic and functional problem that can require expensive repairs if left untreated.

pH

pH measures how acidic or basic the water is on a scale of 0-14. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. Anything higher than a 7 is considered basic while anything lower is considered acidic.

Measuring the pH of the water is useful for many applications including gardening, aquarium care, hydroponics, and aquaponics.

pH can also be a factor with water hardness and iron treatment. A pH of greater than 8.5 can indicate a hardness problem as it can mean a higher concentration of calcium and magnesium.

A higher pH level can also make the treatment for iron oxidation much easier as iron turns ferric at pH levels greater than 7.0.

Lower pH levels can cause corrosion of water pipes and leach heavy metals into the water supply.

Testing for pH can be done easily with home test strips.

The EPA sets a standard range for pH levels at 6.5 to 8.5.

TDS / Electroconductivity

TDS, or Total Dissolved Solids, refers to the total amount of dissolved inorganic minerals that are within the water. Dissolved solids cannot be seen with the naked eye as they’ve been broken down into their simplest chemical form.

TDS generally consist of inorganic salts, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates, and oftentimes small amounts of organic matter.

An example of TDS can be seen when comparing ocean water with spring water. Ocean water has a very high level of TDS evidenced by the high concentration of salt. Spring water has a lower level of TDS as it generally consists of moderate levels of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.

Measuring TDS is a great way to get an idea of the structure of the water as it informs you of how much “stuff” is in there. While TDS measurements don’t necessarily tell you the exact measurement of each chemical, high concentrations of TDS can indicate the need for further, more extensive testing.

TDS is measured by a TDS meter that tests the electroconductivity of the water. Water itself isn’t electroconductive, but it’s the minerals within the water that allow it to conduct electricity. A higher level of dissolved solids within the water will give a higher electroconductivity reading.

TSS / Turbidity

Where TDS measures the Total Dissolved Solids within the water, TSS measures the Total Suspended Solids within the water.

Suspended solids generally refer to a collection of larger particles that haven’t dissolved into the water such as sand, silt, and larger chemical compounds.

Turbidity refers to the clarity of the water in the presence of these suspended solids. Water with high turbidity will appear very cloudy and murky while low turbidity appears clear.

Measuring turbidity is important because high turbidity can often indicate the presence of harmful pathogens. Bacteria, viruses, and protozoa are able to find refuge in large particles such as sand and silt, making it harder to disinfect.

UV purification devices often require a sediment filter to reduce turbidity before applying ultraviolet radiation. Large particles of sand can often block the UV light from killing pathogens, rendering it less effective.






How to Test Water Quality at Home


water testing kit / test assured

Testing the quality of your home's water supply can be done in two ways: using a home test kit or sending a sample to a laboratory.

Home test kits allow users to test the water supply themselves with simple tools and receive immediate results. They’re easy to use, inexpensive, and allow users to test for a wide variety of contaminants on the spot.

Sending a sample of your water to a laboratory service is more expensive and requires some processing time, but the results are far more detailed and accurate. We'll cover laboratory testing services in the upcoming sections.


Why use a home testing kit?

Many home test kits have an all-in-one system that allows for the testing of multiple contaminants and properties within the same kit. Other kits test for specific contaminants only.

While specific instructions may vary slightly between brands, most home test kits work by collecting a sample of water within a provided vial or container and bringing it into contact with the provided test strip or applicator. A color-coded or numeric system is used to identify the results of the test.

Results are shown within a short timeframe, typically up to 10 minutes.

The advantages of using home test kits are that they are fairly inexpensive, very easy to use, and they provided results within a short time frame.

The disadvantages of using home test kits are that they won’t provide as much detailed information as a laboratory would. Home test kits should be used as the first line of defense in water quality testing where indications of concern should be followed up with a laboratory.


Precautions to take when using a home test kit

Keep your hands clean

Water testing involves specific chemical and biological interactions that must not be interfered with. Introducing unwanted contamination through one's hands can alter the test results. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling any home test.

Maintain appropriate temperature

Each test will indicate the appropriate temperature range that the water should be at before sampling, so be sure to follow it on the testing instructions. Water that is outside of the recommended temperature range can produce inaccurate results. Some testing kits, especially those for bacteria, will require the test sample to be stored at a refrigerated temperature until the results can be revealed.

Sampling site

Most home test kits will require you to collect the water sample from the point-of-use, which is usually a kitchen faucet. When collecting the sample, allow the water to run for a few minutes first. This will allow any concentrated amount of contaminants to pass and account for a more accurate reading.

Some tests will want to read the quality of water at its source, whether it be a lake, stream, or underground aquifer. These tests are usually more complex, which we'll cover in the upcoming sections.


How to use color test strips

Most home testing kits involve the use of color test strips to determine the presence of particular contaminants within the water supply. Each contaminant will have its own specific test strip and color system.

color test strip / hach company

Each test kit will have its own specific set of instructions so be sure to follow it closely. But in general, test strips are used by doing the following:

  1. Fill the provided vial with water to the indicated level
  2. Dip the test strip into it and then wait for the results
  3. Compare results to the color chart

Waiting time will vary depending on the type of contaminant being tested for, but results can be revealed between 60 seconds to 10 minutes. The results on the strip can be compared to a color chart that will reveal the level of contamination in mg/l or ppm.

Test strip chart example


Coliform Bacteria Vials

Other tests, especially those for total coliform bacteria and e.coli, are conducted differently. Like test strips, specific instructions may vary between kits but generally go as follows:

  1. Fill the media vial with the sample water
  2. Cover the vial and shake vigorously
  3. Store the vial in a refrigerator for 24-48 hours
  4. The media in the vial should have changed color if bacteria are present. Compare the color results with the charts provided with the kit.

coliform bacteria example / safehome






Best Water Quality Test Kits for Home



Home water quality test kits vary greatly in performance, cost, and testing panel. These are our choices for best home water quality test kits available to consumers.




WaterSafe is an American water testing company founded in 1998. The City Water test kit is a comprehensive test accounting for all the potential contaminants a home on a city water supply should be concerned with.

One of the most concerning contaminants that city water users are often in contact with is lead. Many municipalities use old infrastructure to deliver the public water supply to homes, often leeching lead from the pipes. Lead, a toxic heavy metal capable of causing neurological problems, is very accurately tested for in this kit.

Unlike other home test kits specified for city water, the Watersafe city test kit also tests for pesticides, a common inorganic chemical that can often end up in the public water supply—especially in areas where agriculture is prominent.


  • Heavy Metals:
    • Lead
  • Inorganic Compounds:
    • Chlorine, Nitrate, Nitrite,
  • Organic Compounds:
    • Pesticides
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • Physical properties:
    • Hardness, pH
Image







SafeHome is an American water testing company that provides top-quality test kits to industries and organizations around the world. With over 6 million tests sold, they are widely known as one of the premier water testing companies.

The DIY City Water test kit comes ready to test for 12 possible contaminants in the public water supply.

In addition to testing for Lead, the city water test kit also tests for Copper, Iron, and Zinc, making the heavy metal test complete.


  • Heavy Metals: 
    • Copper
    • Iron
    • Lead
    • Zinc
  • Inorganic Compounds: 
    • Total Chlorine
    • Free Chlorine
    • Nitrate/Nitrite
    • Sulfate
  • Physical properties: 
    • Alkalinity
    • Hardness
    • pH
Image







Test Assured is a company comprised of water quality experts who create professional testing materials and offer an excellent support team. All test kits are made in the USA.

Whether using a public or private water system, their Complete Water Testing Kit provides results for 10 of the most concerning contaminants that can show up in your home's water supply. This kit provides results for chemical contaminants within 10 minutes and bacteria within 48 hours.


  • Heavy Metals: 
    • Copper, Iron, Lead
  • Inorganic Compounds:
    • Chlorine, Nitrate, Nitrite,
  • Organic Compounds:
    • Pesticides
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • Physical properties: 
    • Alkalinity, Hardness, pH
Image







Health Metric specializes in high-quality water testing products for consumers and professionals. All products are made in the USA and designed according to EPA standards.

The Drinking Water Test Kit provides all the necessary materials for testing public and private water systems. The simple and easy-to-use design allows for chemical results within 10 minutes, while bacteria results can take 48 hours.


  • Heavy Metals: 
    • Copper, Lead
  • Inorganic Compounds:
    • Total Chlorine, Nitrate, Nitrite
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • Physical properties:
    • Hardness, pH
Image






Best Laboratory Test for Water



lab / hans-reniers / unsplash

Laboratory testing provides far more accurate and detailed results than home tests due to the advanced instruments used at testing facilities.

Many testing facilities offer quick turn-around programs where homeowners can order a sample test kit, collect a sample of water in the provided vial, mail it back to the lab, and get notified of the results in a few days' time.

Many testing facilities promise a turnaround of 2-4 days.

For those who want a more detailed report of the quality of the water or may have some serious concerns that need specific solutions, laboratory testing is, by far, the most advanced method for water quality testing.





TapScore is a water testing system created by SimpleLab, a digital network of accredited laboratories that store and analyze water quality data, providing residents with the information needed for improving their water supply. TapScore works by collecting residents' water samples and providing a detailed analysis through their digital system which is accessible via mobile app or computer.

The TapScore system is perfect for residents who have a problematic water supply and need detailed, accurate information on how to provide the best purification solutions. By mailing in a sample of water through their prepaid collection system, residents can expect to see their results within 5 days.

Among the water testing laboratory services, TapScore is one of the most innovative solutions available.


  • 5-day turnaround for results
  • Properties:
    • pH, Alkalinity, Hardness, TDS, Nitrates/Nitrites
  • Heavy Metals:
    • Lead, Copper, Cadmium, Arsenic, Chromium, Mercury, Barium, Aluminum
  • Minerals:
    • Fluoride, Sodium, Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Potassium, Sulfate, Zinc
Image







National Testing Laboratories (NTL) is one of the largest accredited drinking water testing laboratories in the United States, widely recognized around the world for their excellence and customer service.

Their WaterCheck laboratory test kit is one of the most comprehensive test kits available, providing results for over 100 contaminants. A sample is collected using their provided vials and then mailed to the laboratory via their free mailing service. A detailed analysis of your water supply is provided within 7-10 business days.

For well owners and city water users who want the most detailed report of their water supply from an accredited laboratory, none come close to the comprehensiveness provided by NTLs WaterCheck report.


  • Results emailed within 7-10 days
  • Tests for 104 harmful contaminants
  • 17 Heavy Metals and minerals
  • 10 Inorganic Compounds
  • 44 VOCs
  • 20 Pesticides and Herbicides
  • Properties:
    • pH, Hardness, TDS, Turbidity, Nitrate/Nitrites
Image







SafeHome's Premium test kit provides results for 50 contaminants including  31 metals, 6 inorganic chemicals, and 12 physical properties. With a 7-10 day turnaround time, free return shipping, and the combined expertise of over 150 years, SafeHome's laboratory test is guaranteed to provide the needed results for well owners and city water users.

  • Free return shipping
  • Results emailed in 7-10 days
  • 31 Heavy Metals
  • Inorganic Compounds:  
    • Nitrate/Nitrite, Fluoride, Chloride, Bromide, Sulfate
  • Properties:
    • Hardness, pH, Alkalinity, TDS
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
    • Results in 24 hours
Image






Best Well Water Testing Kits



Hand pump well / Jainath Ponnala / Unsplash

Hand pump well / Jainath Ponnala / Unsplash

Well water testing should be done prior to drilling a well, prior to purchasing a property that includes a well, and routinely thereafter.

Well water testing differs from city water testing in that there are specific contaminants and minerals in groundwater that need to be tested for. Depending on the contents of the water, specific treatment applications will need to be installed in the home.

Failure to recognize that the contents of the water are may result in damage to the water systems and/or health risks.

Well water test kits can be completed as a home test kit or can be collected as a sample and sent to a laboratory.





For well owners looking to assess their groundwater for the first time or to do a routine test, TapScore's Advanced Well Water Test will provide a comprehensive analysis of the health of the well. The Well Test, endorsed by the US Water System Council, will provide 111 metrics, covering all the potential contaminants in groundwater.

Like TapScore's City Water Test, a sample is collected in the certified vial and mailed to the lab through their prepaid shipping service. Results are provided through their digital interface within 5 days.

With the detailed analysis, a well owner can now make the necessary decisions in water purification options. Installing a well purification system without accurate knowledge of the water quality can result in some very expensive mistakes. The TapScore Advanced Well Water Test will help avoid this.


  • 5-day turnaround for results
  • Properties:
    • pH, Alkalinity, Hardness, TDS, Nitrates/Nitrites, Turbidity
  • 30+ Heavy Metals and Minerals
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • 60+ VOCs
Image







The WaterSafe Well Water Test Kit is a home test specifically made for well water owners, addressing the 10 most harmful contaminants in groundwater. Those who rely on well water can use this test as an initial groundwater check or a routine well check for immediate results.

  • Heavy Metals:
    • Lead, Copper, Iron
  • Inorganic Compounds:
    • Chlorine, Nitrate, Nitrite,
  • Organic Compounds:
    • Pesticides, Herbicides, Fertilizers
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • Physical properties:
    • Hardness, pH
Image







The TestAssured Well Water Testing Kit provides immediate results for 8 harmful contaminants within groundwater. Chemical results can be reviewed within 10 minutes while bacteria results can be reviewed in 48 hours.

  • Heavy Metals: 
    • Copper, Iron
  • Inorganic Compounds:
    • Chlorine, Nitrate, Nitrite
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • Physical properties: 
    • Alkalinity, Hardness, pH
Image







The SafeHome DIY Well Water Kit provides immediate results for 16 contaminants within groundwater, the most results for any DIY Kit. This test kit can be used as an initial groundwater survey, or for a routine check.

  • Heavy Metals: 
    • Copper, Chrome, Iron, Mercury, Silver, Lead, Zinc
  • Inorganic Compounds: 
    • Total Chlorine
    • Nitrate/Nitrite
    • Sulfate
  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • Physical properties: 
    • Alkalinity
    • Hardness
    • TDS
    • pH
Image






Professional Water Test Kit



Water testing kit / creative commons

There are some advanced instruments that can provide detailed results for specific contaminants. While most home test samples are collected at the point of use, these devices can be used to collect samples at the source, providing a detailed account of the water before it's treated. This is particularly helpful for new water sources that need a testing baseline.




A TDS Meter is an electronic device that measures the water's Total Dissolved Solids. By simply dipping the device in the water, a reading for TDS will be displayed on an LCD screen.

TDS meters pair well with membrane purification systems such as a Reverse Osmosis system, allowing the user to immediately see if the membrane needs to be replaced.

The TDS meter also measures temperature and electroconductivity.


  • Measures:
    • Total dissolved solids (TDS)
    • Electrical conductivity (EC)
    • Temperature
  • Water-resistant housing
  • Measurement Range: 0-4999 ppm
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A photometer is an electronic device that gives immediate and accurate results about the quality of the water supply. This iDip photometer by eXact provides over 40 results for contaminants on an LCD display. By pouring water onto the sensor, test results are displayed and can be synced to a smartphone app via Bluetooth.

  • Tests for 30+ Contaminants
    • Ammonia, Calcium, Chlorine, Copper, Iodine, Magnesium, Bromine, Sulfate
    • Total Hardness, pH
    • Nitrates/Nitrites
  • Syncs to smartphone via Bluetooth
  • Made in USA
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This complete well testing kit provides everything you'll need to determine the quality of the groundwater without using a lab service. The well drillers complete test kit

  • Tests included:
    • Chlorine
    • Hydrogen Sulfide
    • Total Hardness
    • Nitrate/Nitrites
    • pH
    • Manganese
    • Bacteria
    • Heavy Metals
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This professional field analysis kit is perfect for sampling water from a lake, stream, or river to get a quality baseline. By testing for hardness, pH, chlorine, iron, and TDS, users can get a very accurate analysis of the type of purification system needed to treat the water. For those looking to use surface water as the main source for a cabin or small home in a rural setting, this field kit is the perfect tool.

  • Tests for:
    • Total Hardness
    • Iron
    • pH
    • Chlorine
    • TDS
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Thank you for taking the time to read our article on how to test water quality at home. We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. If you've found this article to be useful and are interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

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References


Contaminants. (2022, March 10). Drinking Water Quality | Learn Test Treat | Well or Public Water | Indoor Outdoor. https://www.knowyourh2o.com/indoor-3/contaminants

How to test water hardness | DIY water hardness test. (n.d.). HomeWater 101. https://homewater101.com/articles/easy-ways-to-test-water

National primary drinking water regulations. (2021, January 5). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations

Safe Drinking Water Act. (2020, October 6). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/sdwa

Secondary drinking water standards: Guidance for nuisance chemicals. (2021, January 7). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/sdwa/secondary-drinking-water-standards-guidance-nuisance-chemicals

(2021, May 31). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/ccl/definition-contaminant

Water quality testing. (n.d.). My Water Quality. https://mywaterquality.ca.gov/safe_to_drink/water_quality_testing/

I'm Jeremiah Castelo, the owner of World Water Reserve. I'm a writer and researcher with a particular interest in sustainability and rural living, water scarcity, and innovative water purification methods. I utilize my multimedia and communication experience in the NGO and humanitarian fields to bring light to important topics. My passion is to educate others on the reality of the global water crisis and on ways to sustain themselves and their families in the midst of it.
Jeremiah Castelo

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