Many chemicals and contaminants that cause water-related health issues can be tested with inexpensive kits that use luminescence to screen for bacteria. Laboratory testing is more expensive but provides the most accurate and detailed information. For more information, just visit Water Quality Testing Colorado to proceed.
Most private well owners should test for coliform bacteria and nitrate, two contaminants that rapidly affect people’s health and for which the EPA requires public water suppliers to test.
Water quality testing creates an understanding of the characteristics that define your water source. This data can then be used to determine the suitability of your water for the intended purpose and to ensure that harmful contaminants are not present. These tests are routinely performed by certified laboratories using specialized equipment to assess the various aspects of water. The primary categories of water quality parameters are physical, chemical, and bacteriological.
Essentially, physical water quality testing provides a first indication of the qualities immediately visible to the naked eye. These include the temperature, turbidity, and color of your water. Unusual readings can indicate possible issues with the composition of your water body or pollution sources.
In other cases, the physical traits of your water are measured to identify how well the water conducts electricity or its ability to support plant life. These test results can help you decide on water treatment processes and water safety for human consumption.
Some of the most important water quality tests relate to the presence of disease-causing organisms. These can include E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination, and active aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. The presence of these organisms could lead to serious health issues for those consuming the water.
While you may not think of contaminated water as something that is of significant concern for commercial or industrial occupants, the fact remains that access to clean drinking water within the workplace can be a huge benefit. Employees are less likely to suffer from illnesses such as diarrhea, and plants and animals can thrive when their water source is free of toxic pollutants and biological contaminants.
To ensure that your building’s water meets all necessary standards, it is essential to regularly schedule water testing for both the incoming freshwater supply and the treated wastewater that comes out of the facility. This way, potential problems can be identified and rectified quickly before they cause a significant problem for your staff or other visitors. This is particularly the case for regulated waters that must meet specific criteria to be considered safe for drinking.
Chemical water quality testing is conducted to assess the presence of various chemicals in natural or contaminated waters. This is done to ensure that chemical pollutants are not in concentrations that would impact the health of humans and other animals that drink or use these waters for fishing, swimming, irrigation, or as a source of heat. Several chemical parameters are assessed, including acidity (pH), chloride and salinity, dissolved oxygen levels, color, odor, and taste.
The first step in conducting this type of water testing is to collect a sample from the source that is being tested. The sample is then transported to a laboratory for analysis. Specimens are usually contained in sterile bottles to prevent contamination. General chemistry samples are preserved and chilled for transport, while microbiological tests must be kept at a temperature that will allow them to remain viable for further testing.
Some of the most common chemical water testing involves measuring dissolved oxygen levels, temperature and pH, color, odor, and taste. Typically, this testing is done by lab technicians using sophisticated analytical equipment. However, some of these tests can also be performed with handheld digital instruments that may be useful in remote locations or as part of a citizen science water monitoring network.
Among the most important chemical parameters is pH, which measures the number of hydrogen ions in a solution. This indicates how acidic or alkaline the water is, which can affect the ability of bacteria to survive in it or to penetrate and disinfect water pipes. High pH levels can also cause unpleasant-tasting water and corrode metals in the water system.
Other chemical measurements include:
- Dissolved oxygen (DO) levels are the amount of oxygen that can diffuse across a water column.
- Salt content is caused by proximity to the ocean or the accumulation of sodium ions in low water levels.
- Electrical conductivity is the ability of a fluid to carry an electric current.
Other chemical parameters include contaminant metals like mercury, lead, arsenic, and pesticides. These tests are generally conducted in laboratories with specialized equipment to detect and measure these chemicals. Still, many have been developed into handheld digital devices to provide accurate results for lower-tech water testing programs.
Biological water quality testing involves using microorganisms to determine whether water is safe for human consumption. Microorganisms are a key component of aquatic ecosystems, and they play a role in the production of oxygen and the degradation of organic matter. Monitoring the health of a water supply protects public health, prevents environmental damage, and reduces business liability from contamination problems.
Toxic substances are a serious threat to the health of people and animals that depend on drinking water for survival. Chemical contaminants are often the result of industrial processes and can be found in rivers, lakes, streams, wells, and even in groundwater. Many of these chemicals are also toxic to flora and fauna that depend on natural water sources for food and shelter. Oil spills, radioactive leaks, garbage, and the leaching of chemicals from corroded pipes can all contaminate water supplies.
Chemical pollutants include volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, cyanides, and nutrient excesses. These chemicals can degrade the quality of drinking water and cause a variety of health problems, including cancers, heart disease, kidney disease, reproductive disorders, and mental impairments. These harmful environmental chemicals can also lead to decreased biodiversity and loss of natural resources.
The dissolved oxygen content of water is another important aspect of its biological integrity. This can be measured with a dissolved oxygen meter. When there is a high concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water, it indicates that the water is clean and healthy.
When a water source is polluted, the dissolved oxygen level can decrease, which can be dangerous for humans and other organisms that depend on the water for survival. Another measure of water pollution is the amount of dissolved organic matter in a sample. This is known as biological oxygen demand or BOD. When bacteria decompose organic matter in a body of water, they consume the available oxygen, which can affect the health of aquatic plants and animals.
When measuring water’s physical, chemical, and biological characteristics, it is important to have proper sampling techniques in place. Samples should be taken from the specific water source being tested and transported to the lab in a clean, dry container following guidelines to avoid contamination.
Federal, state, and local government regulations mandate regular testing for contaminants in public drinking water supplies (which supply the water for more than 90% of Americans). These standards, referred to as parameters, ensure that drinking water meets certain safety requirements and is not harmful to humans, animals, and plant life.
The parameters that are tested for vary depending on the source of water. Typically, the first test is for bacteria, which are a good indicator of potential contamination by human or animal wastes. The most common test for bacterial contamination is the total coliform test, which looks for many bacteria that are generally harmless to humans but can indicate that the water has been contaminated by fecal material. Other tests are more specific and can look for E. coli or different types of fecal pollution.
Other water quality tests include color, turbidity, and total dissolved solids (TDS). Color is often caused by minerals or organic matter such as weeds or algae, while turbidity and TDS indicate agricultural or industrial run-off pollution. Nuisance contaminants such as iron bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, and hardness can also affect water quality, although they are generally not considered hazardous to humans.
Once the lab finishes testing your water, you will receive a report that lists the contaminants tested for and their concentrations. The concentrations are reported in milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water, indicating how much contaminant there is in one million parts of water. The report may also note that any contaminants tested have exceeded a particular standard, such as those required by the PA DEP for safe drinking water.
In addition to the tests that can be performed at home, many cities and communities provide their results online for residents. This allows people to compare their results with those of other districts and identify if issues need to be addressed. For example, the Environmental Working Group offers a database where you can search for your city’s tap water results by ZIP code.