Water testing is a broad category of methods used to test water for its purity and contaminants. Every person, company, and government in the United States uses some type of water testing. Water quality testing is essential to protect public health and to ensure that water supplies can meet expected use. Thousands of water quality test results are performed daily on water supplies to meet regulatory standards and to keep environmental safety at its highest.
The first step in any water testing process is the collection of water samples from a source that meets established standards. Most public water sources are tested weekly and many private wells are tested monthly. Samples may be collected in specialized water labs located by individual municipalities or states. All water testing must be processed according to strict government guidelines before being released for use.
Water quality testing laboratories perform water tests to identify and document contaminants in both fresh and saltwater samples. Different types of pollutants may be present in one sample of water, in contrast to another. Samples are processed based on the results obtained, which depend on a number of factors. These include the population of the target area, types of contaminants present in the source, and the effects these contaminants may have on the target species. The goal of the laboratory test is to provide quantitative data on the concentration and/or percentage of each contaminant in the sample, as well as data concerning the overall water quality.
Many types of water quality testing instruments are available for conducting research on water, both in the laboratory and in the field. Water minerals content, for example, can be determined by using sensitive mineral ionizers. Other techniques used in laboratory water testing include biological precipitation, reverse osmosis, turbidity measurement, and mineral measurement.
Water contamination of interest to many people occurs when synthetic chemicals or pesticides are used during farming or other human activities. These chemicals enter streams, rivers, lakes, or groundwater systems, and can interact with natural bacteria, algae, fungi, and microorganisms in the source to produce contaminants capable of affecting public health and the environment. Fish farming, industrial facilities, and animal feeding facilities are among the most common sources of synthetic chemicals. In these settings, water testing is necessary to determine if harmful chemicals have contaminated the samples.
A relatively new form of water testing is to determine the levels of a particular contaminant in a drinking water sample. This method is commonly called “total coliform bacteria detection”. In laboratory tests, samples of tap water are analyzed for the presence of total coliform bacteria, a group of aerobic bacteria that inhabit guttural wastes, soil, and stream waters. The aerobic bacteria are distinguished from the anaerobic ones, which live in wet and damp conditions. The latter type produces nitrites, nitrates, and nitrates that can be hazardous to human health; these compounds are the major cause of water-borne illnesses such as nitrosative colitis, amoebiasis, dysentery, dyspulmonaryiosis, and dysentery.
Private water supplies can also be tested for nitrate levels through gas testing kits. In private water supplies, sample bottles are filled with tap water that has been filtered through a commercial solution. Samples are then sent to a lab where researchers collect water and filter it through different types of filtration equipment, using different concentrations of nitrates or other gases. The test kits provide information on the concentration of nitrate levels in the test samples.
Other forms of water testing include testing for heavy metals like lead, copper, and mercury. In some private water supplies, a water test kit is available to measure the concentration of heavy metals in the tap water. In most cases, the level of heavy metal contamination is determined by testing just one sample at a time. Regular testing may not be necessary for some private water supplies; the water test kits available provide detailed information on the concentration of all metals in the entire distribution system.