5 Reasons Why Testing Your Water Is So Important
by Dr. Jonathan Doyle - Updated December 08, 2022
Most people don’t pay much thought to what their drinking water contains. However, testing water used for a variety of purposes (including chemical spraying, filling an aquarium, livestock watering, or drinking water) ensures that water quality is suitable for its intended purpose.
This guide lists which factors commonly affect water quality, and the 5 reasons why testing water is so important.
Factors Affecting Water Quality
There are several factors that are known to affect water quality:
The source of your water determines what it contains. Different regions have different geologies, and some water naturally contains larger quantities of minerals, metals, and ions. Surface water sources are more likely to be affected by pollution and runoff than groundwater (below-ground) sources.
Surface runoff—the flow of water on the ground, caused by rainwater, snowfall, or flooding —may carry agricultural chemicals, microorganisms like bacteria, and manmade contaminants like petroleum, into a water supply, affecting water quality.
When rainwater falls through the air, smokes, dusts, gases, fumes, and mists from the air are picked up by the rain. This rain then travels into rivers and underground aquifers, altering their water quality.
Pipe Age and Materials
The materials used in water pipes, and the age of the pipes, determine whether the pipes are prone to rust and scale, and whether the’re likely to corrode and release compounds into water. Certain types of water pipes are more prone to leaching than others, introducing contaminants that affect water quality.
Water Storage Method
The method of storing water, or whether water is stored at all, may affect its quality. Water storage facilities are prone to microbiological activity, and steps must be taken to reduce the risk of germs and pathogens in stored water.
Why Testing Your Water Is Needed
Here are the top 5 reasons why testing your water is needed.
To Check That It’s Safe
Raw, untreated water contains traces of potentially dangerous contaminants, like heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides, volatile organic compounds, pharmaceuticals, and bacteria. Depending on whether you use city or well water, your water may be treated in advance by your water supplier, or not treated at all.
Testing your water can determine whether or not it’s safe for use. This is especially important if you plan to drink your water. Even municipal water may contain trace amounts of health-harmful impurities, and sometimes these water supplies become contaminated to nobody’s knowledge.
To Address Contaminant Issues
You won’t know what your water contains until you test it. Only when you review the test results can you determine whether, and how, your water should be treated.
For instance, if you discover that your water has a high iron content, you can use an iron filter to remove the metal. Or, if your water contains a lot of hardness minerals, you can use a water softener to prevent limescale. It’s often impossible to guess what your water contains, and choose a suitable treatment method, until you perform a water test.
To Ensure It’s Suitable for Its Intended Use
The quality of your water will determine whether or not it’s suitable for its intended use. Different occasions require water of varying levels of quality. Testing is especially important if your water will be used for drinking by humans and animals.
In some manufacturing and industrial processes, water may need to be completely purified. Manufacturers can test their water to make sure it’s entirely free from impurities before use.
To Track Changes Over Time
Water quality fluctuates over time, or even suddenly. Your water may taste, smell, and look the same regardless of quality, so these changes may go unnoticed. The best way to track changes to your water quality is to test your water periodically.
Regular testing is especially essential for well owners. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends annual water testing for nitrates, total coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids, pH levels, or more frequent testing if you replace well components or notice a difference in your water quality.
To Check Whether Water Treatment Is Working
If you install a water treatment system to reduce or remove certain contaminants from your water, you can conduct a before-and-after water test to check that the system is working as anticipated.
Make a note of what your water filter or water softener is designed to remove, then test for these contaminants in your water after installing the system. If contaminants are still present and haven’t been reduced, this indicates a problem with the treatment system.
Surface runoff, air pollution, pipes, water storage, and the water source can all affect water quality. Testing water is essential to detect contaminants, monitor changes in water quality, establish suitable water treatment methods, and check that these treatment methods are working.