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Drinking Water Testing and Purification at Home

Updated on February 11, 2013
Water Filtration Diagram.
Water Filtration Diagram. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Fifteen percent of all Americans get their home's water from private water supplies like wells, lakes and rivers. Those that do must test their drinking water for impurities and purify it before using it. Most Americans, though, receive their water from treated water supplies provided by the city they live in. City water treatment systems and their methods for treating water, unfortunately, have become antiquated. On top of that, the bottled water sold in stores is obtained from these same treated water supplies. Because of health concerns, more and more Americans are looking for ways to make certain their drinking water remains safe. There are two methods for doing this: 1) testing for contaminants, and 2) water filtration or purification.

Where Our Drinking Water Comes From

More than half of our nation's drinking water originates from groundwater sources which can easily become contaminated by wastewater that has been improperly disposed of as well septic tanks, underground storage tanks, and landfills whose contents may leak into the surrounding soil and groundwater supplies.

Moving water also acts as a solvent, breaking down natural elements along its path (i.e. dirt, rotting leaves, animal droppings), which it carries with it. At present, no regulations exist that call for the disinfection of groundwater, and the regulations managing the quality of private water supplies are minimal at best.

The Worst Water Contaminants

Out of all the water contaminants, the worst offenders have no taste or odor, and don't leave stains or spotting. These contaminants are split into four groups:

1. Biological - includes bacteria, protozoa, salmonella, shigella, and viruses.

2. Inert Chemicals - such as metals, chemicals that make the water more alkaline, alkaline pH, nitrites, nitrates, sulfates and solids dissolved by and picked up by the water.

3. Organic Chemicals - such as iron, copper, lead, arsenic, aluminum, mercury and the like, picked up from the soil and rocks as the moving water passes through.

4. Radioactive Contaminants - includes beta particles, alpha particle activity, photon, emitters, radium 226 and radon

When to Test Your Water

As a rule, home water supplies should be tested:

  • · when lead contamination from lead pipes is suspected.
  • · by all well owners, on a yearly basis, as a general rule.
  • · by well owners who have recently replaced their wells, pipes or water pumps.
  • · by women who are pregnant or who have small children.
  • · when the water tastes bitter, salty, sour or metallic.
  • · when the water smells like rotten eggs, bleach, or raw sewage.
  • · when the water starts staining clothes in the washer, staining the sink, shower, bath tub or toilets or leaving spots on dishes.

Check out this site. It describes the stain colors, smells, and tastes, and tells what the indicate is present in the water.

GW Pumps and Purification. Water Testing.

Testing Untreated Water Supplies

Property owners who obtain their water from wells, lakes, and any other water supplies that are not treated by water treatment systems, should be running several tests on their water.

  • · Microbial Tests for bacteria like e. coli either from animals and other natural sources in the area or from the home's septic tank.
  • · Organic Chemical Tests to find out if agricultural pesticides and fertilizers are leaching into the soil and, consequently, into the home's water supply.
  • · Testing pH levels.
  • · Inert Chemical Tests, looking for arsenic, radon, and the like that may have leached into the soil from local gas stations, chemical refineries, or oil wells.

Choosing the Method of Purification

Once the tests have indicated contaminants are in the drinking water, the purification method can be determined.

1. Hard Water Deposits: Indicates high calcium levels in the water. Treatments include water softener, reverse osmosis, and tankless water heaters.

2. Rusty Red or Brown Stains on Fixtures or Laundry, Metallic Taste: Indicates high levels of iron in the water. Treatments include using a water softener or a whole-house iron reduction filter.

3. Black Stains on Fixtures and Laundry: Indicates high levels of manganese. Treatments are the same as for treating high iron levels.

4. Rotten Egg Smell: Indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide in the water. Treatments include use of a whole-house iron reduction filter.

5. Laxative Effect from Drinking Water: Indicates high levels of sulfates in the water. Treatments include reverse osmosis.

6. Grit, Mud, and Dirty Appearance in Water: Indicates that sand, silt, dirt, clay and other sediments are finding their way into the system. If the problem is severe, a whole-house sediment filter is recommended. If the problem is not severe, but still of concern, point-of-use filtration may be used.

Other Water Testing and Treatments

Anyone who goes camping, hunting, hiking or is into other outdoor activities will need to test and treat any fresh water sources that they intend to make use of. There are many name brands offering testing supplies and treatment kits. Check online for these items or visit stores like Academy Sports and Outdoors or Bass Pro Shops. Check with others you know who have used these types of water testing and treatment systems, and ask what they recommend.


Terra Daily News About Planet Earth. NASA Technologists Aid Water Purification Effort In Iraq.

Water Filters and Purification. Water Filters and Purification Necessary For Survival.

GW Pumps and Purification. Water Testing.

Water Filters and Purification. Water Testing Kits.

Home Water Purifiers and Filters. Testing and Purifying Private Water Systems (Wells).

Natural Health and Organic Living. Water Safe Testing Kit.

Whole House water Filter


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    • Dee42 profile image

      Dee42 5 years ago from Beautiful Arkansas

      Very informative hub. I was very interested in it. I was actually looking at a water filter thingy that attaches to the faucet. I will have to bookmark this.