Testing for Drinking Water Safety
It is not practical for homeowners to test for all possible contaminants. If you have a well, two inexpensive test can serve as indicators of overall condition of your water. If you live in an area that is noted for other issues please think about including those tests.
Coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria don't usually cause illness, but they serve as an indicator that disease-causing organisms CAN get into your well.
Nitrate. Nitrate leaches very easily through the soil to groundwater from farms and gardens, septic systems, animal yards, and manure piles. Nitrate is an indicator that other surface contaminants have the potential to leach into your drinking water.
When should I test?
Test for coliform bacteria
- At least once a year.
- Whenever you notice a change in taste or color of the water.
- After work on the well or if you notice that the cap is not secure.
- If you notice surface water standing around the base of the well.
- When you purchase a new home (required by law in Oregon.)
Test for nitrate
- If you expect to have a pregnant woman or newborn baby drink the water.
- Once a year if you live near:
- Fertilized fields
- Rural development with septic systems
- Pastures or pens with animals/livestock
- A perfect lawn
- If you have had a nitrate level in the past, test once a years,and keep records
- Nitrate levels vary depending on the time of year and the weather conditions
- Free nitrate screenings are available at all Well Water sponsored events
Where is well water tested?
There are Certified Drinking Water Laboratories for the State of Oregon.
List of Certified Labs Procedure and prices vary.
Real Estate offices may know, because testing is required for rural home sales.
The OSU Well Water Program offers free Nitrate Screenings at our events. If you would like to have us come to your community, contact us directly.
What else should I test for?
If you have an aesthetic concern with your water, such as taste, smell, or staining, ask the lab which test you need.
If you suspect a chemical spill, such as pesticide or petroleum, occurred anytime in the past, you may want to set up a long-term testing program to monitor for the suspected contaminant. Contact us for assistance.