Drinking Water Testing - Why and How?

Increasing environmental pollution also affects the water which is used to supply us with drinking water. To ensure your family’s health and safety, it is important to make sure that your home drinking water is safe.

Common drinking water contaminants include:

Lead, Nitrates and Nitrites, Bacteria, Chlorine, pH, Hardness, Pesticides, Chlorine, Iron, Copper, Sulfate, Hydrogen Sulfide, Chloride

Don’t just rely on your water supplier to deliver clean and safe water. Most contaminants can not be detected using smell, taste or look. Take back control with our range of simple home water test kits.

Although most water suppliers deliever reliably clean & safe water, contamination can happen on the way into your home. This could be through old plumbing or leaking pipes, leaching lead or copper pipes, or bacteria contamination; just to name a few examples.

Our home water test kits offer you:

  • A simple and effective way to test your drinking water for up to 13 different water contaminants, including chlorine, lead, bacteria, nitrates & nitrites
  • Quick results without having to wait for days
  • A reliable initial indication about a potential contamination in your home
     

Chose the right test kit for you:

  Water Test Kit 13-in-One Water Test Kit 10-in-One Water Test Kit 8-in-One
Price for 1 kit £27.09 £24.09 £19.09
Lead   1x test 1x test
Pesticides   1x test 1x test
Bacteria 1x test 1x test 1x test
Nitrate 2x tests 1x test 1x test
Nitrite 2x tests 1x test 1x test
Hardness 2x tests 1x test 1x test
Total Chlorine 2x tests 1x test 1x test
Free Chlorine 2x tests    
pH 2x tests 1x test 1x test
Total Alkalinity 2x tests    
Iron 2x tests 1x test  
Copper 2x tests 1x test  
Sulfate 2x tests    
Chloride 2x tests    
Hydrogen Sulfide 2x tests    

 

  Water Test Kit 6-in-One Water Test Kit 5-in-One
Price for 1 kit £9.09 £12.09
Lead    
Pesticides    
Bacteria    
Nitrate 2x tests 25x tests
Nitrite 2x tests 25x tests
Hardness 2x tests 25x tests
Total Chlorine    
Free Chlorine    
pH 2x tests 25x tests
Total Alkalinity 2x tests  25x tests
Iron 2x tests  
Copper    
Sulfate    
Chloride    
Hydrogen Sulfide    

Click here to purchase a Water Testing Kit.

If you can't find what you are looking for then please contact us, as we can source many other water testing kits.

Why test drinking water?

There are many reasons why you may want to test the water supply in your home or business. Some instances, when it is recommended to test drinking water are listed below:

  •     If your water supply is private, ie. comes from a well in your garden, then routine tests should be carried out regularly
  •     If you have recurrent incidents of gastrointestinal illness within your family
  •     If you know or suspect that your household plumbing contains lead pipes, fittings, or solder joints
  •     If you are buying a new home or renting a new property
  •     If water stains plumbing fixtures and laundry
  •     If water has an objectionable taste or smell
  •     If water appears cloudy, frothy, or coloured
  •     If pipes or plumbing show signs of corrosion
  •     If water leaves scaly residues or household appliances don’t appear to be working efficiently
  •     If water supply equipment (pump, chlorinators, etc.) wear rapidly
  •     If you have installed a water softener or some sort of filtering system to ensure it is working correctly
  •     If you know or suspect that you may have lead pipes

Potential Contaminants in your Drinking Water

Click on the individual links below or carry on reading to find out further information about each potential contaminant:

Lead , Nitrates & Nitrites , E-Coli , Bacteria , Chlorine , pH , Hardness , Pesticides , Iron , Copper , Sulfate , Hydrogen Sulfide , Chloride

 

Lead

Drinking water is only one possible source of lead contamination but it is one of the easiest to reduce. Lead in drinking water is mostly caused by lead pipes especially in houses built prior to 1930s. If your water is soft or corrosive, this type of water can accelerate the leaching of lead and copper and other metals from your household plumbing and water fixtures. The lead concentration is normally higher when the water is softer, ie. has a lower pH. Lead can be harmful to your health, but just how harmful depends on the amount of lead which has entered your body and where the lead is stored in your body. When lead enters the body it can cause damage to the central nervous systems as well as developmental harm especially in children and infants, neurological and kidney damage. Once lead has entered the body it is released very slowly, which means ongoing exposure will cause a build up of lead in the body.

The amount of lead in water caused by lead piping is greater when the water has been sitting in the pipe for a while, ie. in the first water of the morning. It is therefore important to let the water run to flush the pipe before using it. Because lead levels in the water can vary throughout the day, it is recommended to test your drinking water more than once - ideally throughout one day whenever you use your water for consumption.

Nitrates and Nitrites

When animal and human wastes or soil fertilisers come into contact with water, they show up as nitrates and nitrites. There has been a 20 fold increase of the use of nitrogen fertilisers in the UK in the past 40 years.  These fertilisers are very easily washed of the land into streams and rivers and can eventually end up in drinking water supplies. Only specialised water treatment processes can reduce the amount of nitrate in drinking water. Nitrates and nitrites are especially harmful for the development of babies and young children.

Nitrates are thought to be associated with cancer because the resulting nitrite can react with amino acids in our body to nitrosamines which are thought to be initiators of cancerous growths.

Some experts recommend to test drinking water for nitrates if a baby is expected, during in the early months of a pregnancy, before bringing an infant home, and again during the first 6 months of the baby's life.

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E.Coli

E.Coli is a shorthand term for Escherichia Coliform bacteria which normally live in the intestines of humans and animals.  Most strains of this bacteria are harmless, but one particular strain called O157 can cause severe kidney damage and diarrhea and in some cases renal failure and death. Infection by the O157 strain are regarded as the most dangerous causes of food poisoning in the UK.

Because E.coli are always present in human and animal faeces in high numbers, they are used as an indicator of faecal pollution in drinking water. When Ecoli are detected this does not mean that O157 is present but it requires immediate action. All Ecoli bacteria can be rapidly inactivated by chlorine and other disinfectants used in the treatment of water supplies. Outbreaks of illnesses are mostly related to poor maintenance of these disinfection systems or private water supplies which are not disinfected.

A bacteria drinking water test kit can detect high levels of such bacteria in the water.

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Bacteria

Bacterial contamination can not be detected by taste, smell or sight. Floods, human or animal waste, or insects, rodents or animals entering a well can be a cause for bacteria. Public water supplies should regularly be tested, but for private water supplies, like wells or springs, there are no such requirements.

Illnesses caused by E.coli bacteria and other potentially harmful bacteria occur every year. Many strains of bacteria are not toxic but even mild cases can cause minor illnesses like diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Especially in people with weaker immune systems like children or the older generations, bacterial infections can be potentially dangerous or fatal.

The presence of bacteria indicates that treatment systems are not working properly.

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Chlorine

Although its health risks are comparatively small, chlorine has a strong taste and smell. Chlorine in large amounts causes corrosion of metals and hence reduces the working function of common household appliances like washing machines and dishwashers. Chlorine in water may be present in two forms, free and combined. Free chlorine does the hard work of killing bacteria and oxidising contaminants. When you add chlorine to water, you are actually adding free chlorine. When the free chlorine combines with other contaminants, it becomes combined chlorine, or chloramines. In water, this form of chlorine has very little sanitising ability and no oxidising ability. Total chlorine is the sum of both - combined chlorine and free chlorine. Levels of chlorine should be kept as low as possible whilst ensuring the quality of the water.

Health Effects - Chlorine can react with organic matter in the water, such as from vegetation decay, and form disinfection byproducts called Trihalomethanes (THM's). THM's are suspected human carcinogens. Chlorine may also create objectionable taste and odor problems in water. Chlorine can be irritating to the skin upon contact as well as an eye, nose and lung irritant when exposure to the air is encountered. Ingestion of Chlorine can cause stomach discomfort.

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pH

The pH of tap water should be in the range of 6.5 to 8.5, which is around neutral and near alkaline. The pH scale is the measure of acidity or alkalinity ranging from 0 to 14.  Some water sources are acidic. Acidic water can be corrosive to metals, especially the lead in lead piping. It is important to control the pH of water as a too high or too low pH can be an indicator for other problems with the water. A high pH for instance, could indicate insufficient available chlorine, which increases the possibility of the presence of bacteria.

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Hardness

Hard water is generally not seen as a health risk, but it is a nuisance because

  • of a mineral build up around taps and white goods,
  • it can contribute to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances and
  • it reduces soap and detergent performance.

Hard water is high in dissolved minerals, most commonly calcium and magnesium.

Understanding your Test Results:

Hardness greater than 80PPM: Detergents with softening agents are not completely effective in cleaning

Hardness greater than 120PPM: Some scaling will occur in pipes and appliances

Hardness greater than 250PPM: Dishwasher impossible to use without producing film on dishes

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Pesticides

Pesticides are used to eliminate weeds, insects and other harmful elements in crops. An increased use of pesticides in agriculture has allowed this sometimes toxic substance to leak into the soil, rivers, lakes and groundwater which is used for our drinking water. Public water supplies are encouraged to test water for pesticides but this is not always the case.

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Iron

Considered one of the "Troublesome Trio" (along with Manganese and Hydrogen Sulfide) because of the complexity in removing this excess contaminant. More common in private wells than municipal water supplies. Iron can be present in four different forms in water. Ferrous Iron is colorless and is the result of changing the insoluble element Iron to a soluble form in acidic and low oxygen environments. Ferric Iron is the result of air exposure to form insoluble Iron (rust) and red-brown staining of plumbing fixtures and laundry. Organic Iron or Iron Bacteria occurs when specific microorganisms utilize Ferrous Iron and air to produce a gelatinous compound. Colloidal Iron is observed as suspended matter causing red-pink discoloration to water. Iron is a non-mandatory secondary water quality standard and guidelines are provided to assist in managing drinking water for aesthetic considerations such as taste, color and odor as well as for corrosion control.

Aesthetic Effects - Excessive Iron will create a rusty color with reddish or orange staining of plumbing fixtures. A metallic taste may also be present with excess Iron. If Iron Bacteria is present, gelatinous sludge may be present on plumbing fixtures or cause pipe encrustation.

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Copper

Copper is an essential nutrient for good health when ingested in very small quantities and is a naturally occurring element found in natural deposits as ores containing other elements. Copper is also used extensively in household plumbing. Copper can be found in drinking water by contamination from mining operations or municipal incineration deposits leaching into groundwater. Corrosion in household copper plumbing from acidic water is another source of excess copper levels in drinking water.

Short term exposure above the recommended levels can cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and vomiting. Long term exposure can cause liver or kidney damage. Excessive levels of copper can cause blue/green staining of plumbing fixtures and a metallic taste.

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Sulfate

Sulfates are naturally found in most waters and the amount will vary depending on geographic area. It is a colorless and odorless compound of sulfur and oxygen and exists as a dissolved salt in water. High sulfate generally means you are likely to have hard water because of sulfate's ability to combine with calcium and magnesium. High sulfates will usually correspond to high sodium levels and high acidity in your water also. Low to moderate concentrations of sulfate may actually make water more palatable and desirable to drink. Sulfates contribute to the total mineral content of water.

High levels of sulfates will produce a medicinal taste and can cause a laxative effect on the digestive system if you are not accustomed to drinking water with high sulfates. Health concerns regarding sulfate in water have been raised because of particular concern for groups who may be at greater risk from the laxative effects.

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Hydrogen Sulfide

A flammable and corrosive gas present in some waters that produces an easily detected offensive "rotten egg" smell to water. It is produced by decaying organic matter, petroleum refining and from sulfate reducing bacteria (bacteria that can convert sulfates and sulfur to sulfide). Hydrogen sulfide is also a weak acid and can also promote corrosion in plumbing lines. More common to well waters than to treated municipal water supplies.

Excess hydrogen sulfide can cause an objectionable smell to water and be corrosive to plumbing lines. Odor can be detected in water with a level of 0.5 milligrams per liter (mg/L) by most people. A "swampy" or "musty" odor can be detected below 1.0 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Concentration of sydrogen sulfide over 1.0 milligrams per liter (mg/L) will give water a "rotten egg" smell and makes water corrosive to plumbing.

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Chloride

In small amounts, chloride is found in most natural waters and the concentration depends on the mineral content of the earth through which the water flows. Naturally occurring high chloride levels generally means you will likely have hard water because of chloride's ability to combine with calcium and magnesium. Low to moderate concentrations of chloride may actually make water more palatable and desirable to drink. Chlorides contribute to the total mineral content of water.

Chloride will produce a salty taste in water and high concentrations it will cause a brackish or briny taste which is undesirable.

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Disclaimer:

The information on this website has been collected from various sources and is written to the best of our knowledge. This has been done exclusively for anyone who is interested in this subject but it is not intended to replace a proper analysis. We can not accept responsibility and liability of any kind which may result from the application of this information. We always recommend to consult an expert to discuss any test results or get a full recommendation on the specific water tests required for your situation.

There are strict standards for the quality of drinking water within Europe mainly laid down in the EU Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC). These are based on advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO).