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Should I Test My Water?
"The question of whether or not to have your water tested is a serious one that concerns the health of you and your family. Your water should be safe to drink and acceptable for all other household uses." (Water Quality Fact Sheet #4, Cooperative Extension System, Cornell University, University of Maryland advice about deciding when to test water and what sorts of testing should be used to check home water supply for contaminants.)
Water quality is incredibly important with regards to your health! However, there are plenty of other less serious problems that poor water quality can cause – like poor taste, odour, color, fixture damage, staining of clothing and water basins, and drying of skin.
Even water that looks clear and tastes okay may not be safe, or acceptable for drinking or other uses. Many people make the error of thinking “it looks and tastes alright, why worry?” which can lead to illness and other problems if there are in fact hidden issues.
While it is sometimes hard to test for all possible contaminants, there are a few standard guidelines you can follow to help you decide when to get your water tested, what to test for, and how to test! (And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive, phew!)
Where does your water come from?
- Your water supply will be either public or private, depending on where you reside.
- Public water supply merely means you and others are connected to the same water system, and private refers to those who have their own water supply.
- Public water systems generally draw their supply from reservoirs, rivers, lakes, springs, and ground water wells.
- Private water supplies are often generated by wells - though springs, ponds, and roof collection are also commonly used.
- Cisterns can be filled with “city water” for many homes that are rural and need water brought in
If you’re one of the people using a private water source, it is truly ONLY up to you to make sure that your water is safe to use – so routine testing is incredibly important. You CAN test yourself! By doing routine home testing you’ll be able to monitor your water with ease, and confidence. Something to remember is that testing water that has already been deemed safe can be incredibly valuable because you can establish a water history, catch a potential problem early. Cisterns are also vulnerable places for water – as dirt, leaks, and exposure can lead to some troublesome water issues, so those using cisterns need to be aware! Testing regularly and treating for bacteria is advised.
If you are using public water, your water is being tested – and if you have read other entries on our blog you know that Ontario has some of the strictest water laws! However, there is chlorine and other factors in city water that make home testing important and water treatment may be recommended.
As mentioned above…..
It is IMPERATIVE that you have your water tested if:
- If you already have a water treatment system: regular testing will let you know if the system is in fact working properly
-Any residents or guests in your home/residence suffer from reoccurring incidents of gastrointestinal illnesses. (It would be advised to test for nitrates, sulphates, and coliform bacteria)
- If your water has a color. Most often red water or “rusty” colour is caused, indeed, by rust. Rust can cause health problems when ingested, can damage clothing, and “eats away at” pipelines and fixtures, not to mention the staining it can cause in sinks, bathtubs and toilets. Rust in the water could mean the water supply is aggressive/corrosive. Check pH levels for acidity.
-If you have “hard” water. Hard water symptoms include scaly residues and soap scum, decreases the cleaning abilities of soaps or detergents, clothing that feels starchy. *Very hard water can cause build-up of scale on metal pipes, fixtures, and appliances.
-If there are any changes in your water – like a sudden color or smell change, or a new taste etc. You need to know what’s going on! A simple test can answer many questions for you – such as a 4 in 1 City Water Check for those using city water.
-If construction is taking place near where you live – new buildings require digging and such disturbances can have an impact on your water quality.
-If your water smells like fuel or oil and you are close to any form of fuel storage ie: gas station, abandoned stations, buried fuel tanks, be sure to check for fuel components or volatile organic compounds.
-If your well is in close proximity to road salt storage, near sea water, near heavily salted roadways or parking lots – or if you notice that your water tastes salty, or any signs of corrosion appear on your pipes and plumbing you should check for chloride and sodium levels.
-If your well is near anything like a factory, a landfill, a junkyard, or a dump – toxins can seep into the ground so testing for volatile organic chemicals like gas, cleaning solvents, pH, TDS, sulphates and metals is highly recommended.
-If you have bought an R/O system, UV sterilizer, replaced your water pumps, or make any adjustments or changes to plumbing – know if your system is working – test your water for results.
-If you are looking to buy, or sell a home, testing the water in that home is imperative. Water quality issues can sometimes be expensive to fix – but more importantly you want to know what you are getting into. If you are looking to sell, being able to prove you are selling a home with quality water, or a good water treatment system can not only help you sell, but can improve the value of your home. (Watch for a blog entry soon with more details regarding water quality, and testing when buying/selling a home)
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