Discussions of whether to drink tap water never go away. Proponents of drinking tap water assert that public distribution systems have water quality checks in place, while opponents cite cases of contaminants reaching people’s homes.
Regardless of the side you’re on, the importance of water quality should be a concern for every homeowner who cares about their well-being. This includes learning to check water quality issues within their homes before they cause significant problems.
Water quality testing refers to the procedures used to test water for contaminants. Water contaminants fall under four categories:
Here’s why water quality testing matters.
Homeowners who prioritize the health of their family members and pets understand the importance of water quality testing in protecting health and well-being.
Contaminants in drinking water increase the risk of your family developing minor and severe health conditions.
Water with biological contaminants such as hepatitis can cause severe issues in infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
Other pollutants cause neurological, digestive, and reproductive problems, while some increase cancer risk due to prolonged exposure.
Water quality analysis can help protect your plumbing fixtures. Water with a high concentration of mineral deposits can clog plumbing lines in your home. These clogs slow down or stop water from reaching your home.
Other appliances, such as the water heating system, could also develop a build-up of mineral deposits, decreasing the heater’s ability to heat water and increasing your energy bills.
The pH imbalances in water could also affect your plumbing as acidic water corrodes metal plumbing fixtures, while alkaline water develops a strange taste.
Health concerns are the most highlighted in discussions about the importance of water quality testing. Another benefit of testing the water quality in your home is helping you choose the best water filtration or treatment system.
Since different locations deal with various water quality issues, the solutions also differ. For example, if you live in an area with extremely hard water, you may need a water-softening solution.
If you’re in an area with a high risk of bacterial contamination, you may need a water filtration solution that includes microbe treatment to keep you and your family safe.
Water is crucial for non-drinking uses such as irrigation, livestock farming, and swimming.
These uses have different water quality requirements, which must be met to ensure your plants, animals, and swimmers are safe.
If you use water for irrigation, you must test its quality to ensure it has the right pH balance and to check for potential contaminants, such as pesticides which could affect plant health.
Similarly, you must check the water in swimming pools for pH levels and chlorine to ensure it’s safe for swimming.
EPA regulations do not cover private wells. Therefore, if your home relies on a private well, you are responsible for checking its water quality and testing for contaminants.
You should test your well at least once every year or when you notice water quality issues such as strange smells, metallic taste, or rust stains in your taps.
Learning to check water quality at home can help minimize your family’s exposure to health risks. Poor quality water has one or more of these signs:
Murky water appears cloudy. It could be due to a harmless reason like trapped air bubbles. But, it could also indicate a build-up of limescale in your plumbing. Limescale build-up is common in areas with hard water.
While hard water is safe for drinking, it can damage your plumbing and appliances and cause surface staining.
Clean water should be clear. If it has a colored tint such as brown, green-blue, or black, you should test the water quality in your home.
Brown or yellow tap water is a sign of corrosion in pipes, while blue or green water has high levels of copper.
Tap water that smells like rotten eggs has a high concentration of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur. It is unsafe for drinking and irrigation. It can also damage plumbing and clog wells. In addition to a rotten egg smell, you may notice black stains and corrosion in plumbing fixtures.
Water develops an oily film due to hydrogen sulfide and iron bacteria. Although both are naturally occurring, they can be found in decomposing plant matter or underground sewage treatment plants.
Chlorine is used in treating bacteria in water. In the right quantities, the treated water is safe for human consumption. However, higher levels of chlorine are not safe for drinking.
The bitter taste in water could indicate a high concentration of dissolved metals in water. Copper and zinc are the common metals that give water a bitter taste.
When your family suddenly develops unexplained health issues, it could be a sign of water contamination. Diarrhea and vomiting are the common symptoms of waterborne illness.
You might have additional symptoms such as respiratory, ear, skin, and eye issues. These issues may worsen and become fatal without the proper medical care.
When you notice any of these issues in your water supply, contact a water quality testing laboratory for tests. They may provide you with water collection samples or home kits that you can use for some tests.
For buyers considering new homes, request a home inspection company to include water quality analysis. The analysis checks for any contaminants in the water and their concentration per liter.
Water quality testing is vital for homeowners who want access to safe water for drinking, cleaning, laundry, irrigation, and swimming. Water passing through water bodies, treatment plants, and plumbing systems can collect contaminants that could find their way into your home.
Therefore, water quality analysis becomes integral to your annual home maintenance routine. It’s also advisable to test your home’s water quality when you notice issues such as murky waters or sudden onset of unexplained digestive problems without a reasonable cause.
A real estate inspection or home inspection is not an appraisal or a check for compliance with building codes; it’s also not an evaluation of environmental hazards. See the NYS Standards of Practice for more information on the limitations of a home inspection.
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