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When To Test Your Home Water Supply
Water quality is easily taken for granted. However, various scenarios may necessitate testing the water supply.

Water quality is not something people think about all that much, especially in developed nations. Though it can be easy to take water quality for granted in countries with ample regulation and sophisticated filtering systems, there are times when anyone, regardless of where they live, should take stock of the water in their homes.

Frequency of testing

One of the variables for individuals to consider is how long it’s been since they last tested the water quality in their homes. For those who have never done so, those who have done it but can’t recall precisely when or those who know it’s been more than a year since the last test, then it’s a good time to test the water. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends annual testing for coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. The EPA notes this testing is especially important for anyone who is using a new well or has replaced or repaired pipes, pumps or the well casing.

What about public water supply systems?

Testing may not be necessary for individuals who get their water from public water supplies. The EPA notes that anyone who pays a water bill gets their water from a public supply system, which is responsible for monitoring and testing water and reporting the results of those tests to the appropriate agencies as well as the individuals who use the water. Homeowners and tenants who pay a water bill should receive an annual water quality report from their water supply utility, while renters can request a copy of that report from their landlords if they do not pay the bill themselves.

What about private water supply systems?

Individuals who receive their water from a private system, such as a household well, are responsible for conducting their own water supply testing. These tests should be conducted annually and in the aftermath of a spill or other incident that could taint the water supply.

Are there any special circumstances to test the water?

The EPA notes that certain situations may call for testing the water supply, even if it's provided by a public supply system. For example, the EPA recommends that expecting parents test their water supply for nitrates in the early months of a pregnancy. Testing should then be conducted again prior to bringing an infant home and once more during the first six months of the baby’s life. The EPA notes nitrate tests are best conducted in spring or summer after periods of rain.

An eye, taste and/or smell test also can indicate if the water supply should be tested. Water that stains, has an unusual taste and/or a conspicuous odor should be tested. In these instances, test for sulfate, chloride, iron, manganese, hardness, and corrosion.

A local chemical or fuel spill also should trigger a test of the water supply. The EPA notes that these tests can be expensive and recommends individuals contact a local expert to determine which contaminants to test for.

A local health department office can also be a useful resource for individuals who want to confirm that their water supply is safe.