How can I test the quality of my private drinking water supply? 

Consider testing your well for pesticides, organic chemicals, and heavy metals before you use it for the first time. Test private water supplies annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. Test them more frequently if you suspect a problem. Be aware of activities in your watershed that may affect the water quality of your well, especially if you live in an unsewered area.

Reasons to Test Your Water

  • The chart below will help you spot problems. The last five problems listed are not an immediate health concern, but they can make your water taste bad, may indicate problems, and could affect your well long term.

    Conditions or Nearby Activities:Test for:
    Recurring gastro-intestinal illnessColiform bacteria
    Household plumbing contains leadpH, lead, copper
    Radon in indoor air or region is radon richRadon
    Corrosion of pipes, plumbingCorrosion, pH, lead
    Nearby areas of intensive agricultureNitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria
    Coal or other mining operations nearbyMetals, pH, corrosion
    Gas drilling operations nearbyChloride, sodium, barium, strontium
    Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-cleaning operation nearbyVolatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals
    Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanksVolatile organic compounds
    Objectionable taste or smellHydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals
    Stained plumbing fixtures, laundryIron, copper, manganese
    Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearbyChloride, total dissolved solids, sodium
    Scaly residues, soaps don’t latherHardness
    Rapid wear of water treatment equipmentpH, corrosion
    Water softener needed to treat hardnessManganese, iron
    Water appears cloudy, frothy, or coloredColor, detergents