Today's inquiry came from 'AimElynn' who asked, " Hi, I'm working on a school project for science class and have a question.  What is the most important water test?"

Each home or buildings water quality situation varies for a large number of reasons.  Homes built at the same time, by the same builder, in the same neighborhood and using the exact same floor could have different water quality issues due to things such as:

  • Depth(s) of the water well if the homes have them.
  • Length of piping leading from the municipal water supply to the homes if on a public water system.
  • Amount of water drawn by each home from a water source or system

So what's the most important water test?  Honestly, the one that correctly diagnoses the water quality situation for a particular location...

.... but, if we absolutely HAD to pick a few that potentially impact large numbers of folks on a regular basis, we would choose the following:

  • Coliform bacteria - This test can literally save lives.  While not all coliform bacteria will cause illness, certain ones like E. Coli may cause serious illness and even death -- especially when elderly, informed or young children are involved.
  • Heavy Metals - Health officials have long known that dissolved heavy metals in drinking water may cause serious health problems such as slowed mental & physical development in children, various types of cancer and a really large health problem called death.  Metals of particular concern include arsenic, chromium and mercury.
  • Radiation - While not all areas of the country have a high risk of this sort of contamination, those that do REALLY should pay close attention to radiation levels in their water because they can and do fluctuate on a regular basis depending upon environmental conditions.  Radon and radium can really ruin a life if left unchecked!
  • Man Made Messes - This category we made up, but it includes all the man made chemicals and compounds that industry, agriculture and accidents dump into our environment.  If big business, the military or agricultural activities took place near a location near you at some point, then testing for VOC's (volatile organic compounds) and other not-so-natural chemicals may make a lot of sense.

Pretty scary if you think about it, but also quite manageable with current testing methods generally available to the public.  For quick reference testing of  coliform bacteria and heavy metals simple at-home DIY water test kits exist and they won't break the bank.  But, if they yield positive results, definitely pay attention and have your water tested by an accredited water testing lab such as National Testing Laboratories.

Arsenic Quick 5 Tests
Arsenic Quick 5 Tests
Total Iron Visual Test Kit
Total Iron Visual Test Kit
Standard Radiological Testing Package
Standard Radiological
Testing Package