One way to tell if your water is safe to drink is to use your senses. If the water smells like rotten eggs (too much sulfur) or chlorine, or tastes like salt or leaves a metallic taste, you may want to check it out. You can also use your eyes to determine color differences, looking for red, brown, yellow, blue, green, cloudy, white or foamy water; clean water should be clear.
Unfortunately, many problems with unsafe water are not detectable with the senses. Contaminants like bacteria (including E. coli), arsenic, iron, viruses, lead, agricultural pollutants, and chemicals cannot be smelled or detected with the naked eye.
If you are on a municipal water system, your water is most likely safe as these suppliers are required to test the water regularly, and many post their reports online. If you are on a well system or share a well however, you may need to test your water regularly as federal standards don’t apply to wells. Most testing is done through a state-certified lab, a state-by-state listing of which is available on the EPA website. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) can also test your water.
When testing your water, use the first water that comes out of the tap in the morning. This will indicate if contaminants are coming from the pipes themselves. Be sure to test your water for copper if you have copper pipes and lead if you have lead pipes or brass faucets.
Be sure to test your water if your family is experiencing recurring gastrointestinal distress, or you are pregnant or have an infant living in the house, or if you see any noticeable changes in the water. Also test it if you live near a livestock area or a business that uses chemicals like a gas station, dry cleaner, junkyard or chemical plant.
As your local plumber, JR Snider is passionate about providing clean water for residents and their livestock in and around the Loudoun and Fauquier Counties area and can provide information about water conditioning and drinking water filtration and household water purification systems that will ensure your drinking water is healthy.