10 Ways to Know Whether or Not You Should Have Your Water Tested for Contaminants

published Oct 15, 2019
3 min read

Tap Water

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what you’re putting in your body. Most people know traditional foods like high carb meals and fatty dishes are unhealthy for them, but you might have never realised the type of water you drink can be just as critical to your health.

Many ways to access water are available today. You may prefer to stock your home with water bottles, use a filtered pitcher or drink from the water dispenser in your fridge. However, problems can start to arise depending on where that water comes from.

People get water from one of two places⁠ — public water systems or wells. Either way, sometimes things can go wrong, and you might need to test your water.

If you’re wondering about your water’s quality, read on for 10 ways to know whether you should have it tested for contaminants. Your drinking water will be much safer and healthier if you learn when to test it before it becomes unfit to drink.

1. Your Water Tastes Bad

People like to say water is water — but you’ll taste a big difference between different water qualities. It’s why people prefer certain brands of bottled water over others. Whatever water you use at home should always be pleasantly neutral.

You should never have to wonder if you’re tasting something in your tap water when sipping on a drink poured from your tap. The same goes for shower water or the water you use to brush your teeth.

Immediately follow any bad taste by a water quality test, just to ensure you aren’t drinking contaminants.

2. Your Water Fixtures Are Stained

You may never think about the quality of your sinks and tubs until you notice a pink mould on them that grows slowly over time. You should be able to easily wipe away this mould with cleaning solution — and if you can’t, your utilities may be stained.

Stains can appear brown, yellow, red or black. Those colours indicate high concentrations of harmful minerals that shouldn’t be in your water. Test your water if you see any stains on the water fixtures in your house. A professional can easily treat your water, and the stains will disappear.

3. Your Stomach Is Upset

Just as your stomach can get upset when you eat something unhealthy, the same thing can happen if you drink bad water.

Drinking water can irritate your stomach in a few ways. First, you might experience an upset stomach after local and natural chemicals infiltrate your water source. Arsenic is a naturally occurring toxin found in water that a professional can filter out if they identify the substance through testing.

Infections like gastroenteritis also follow the minerals that contaminate water. You may experience stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting as symptoms of this virus. These symptoms are also associated with salmonella and E. coli.

If you’re having symptoms like these and don’t think you’ve consumed any bad food, test your water right away.

4. Your Soap Doesn’t Lather

Groundwater filtered through soil is called hard water. It’s less likely to react well with soaps and create a lather, although hard water that passes a filtration test will make minimal suds. If your dish or hand soap won’t lather or produces only minimal suds, your water has become hard and needs to be tested for contaminants like hardness, iron, pH, nitrates and chlorine.

5. Your Water Smells Foul

Water shouldn’t have a taste or smell — so it’s a bad sign if you’re wincing when you bring a cup of water to your lips. Hydrogen sulphide is a common cause of foul-smelling water. Many people note a rotten-egg-like smell when they sniff this contaminated water or turn the tap on.

Trust your nose and test your water if it smells bad when you use your sinks or showers.

6. Your Plumbing’s Corroded

A bad taste and smell in your water could also be a sign your plumbing has started to corrode. Pay attention to whether your water becomes discoloured early in the morning. If so, it may have settled in the pipes overnight and absorbed the metals from the corroded pipe. Replacing corroded plumbing will be a project, but it’s worth testing for so that you can start as soon as possible.

7. Your Water Looks Cloudy

Cloudy or foggy water is often left untreated. Most of the time, murky water becomes clear once you boil it. Still, any cloudiness means contamination, and you should have it treated right away.

Most of the time, cloudy water occurs when particles mix into your water supply from dirt, sand and rocks in the earth. They may not immediately harm your health but should still be taken care of with a sediment filter.

In rare cases, water can become cloudy when methane gas enters it. This phenomenon only happens if your water comes from a well located near oil or gas wells. You should get this issue resolved quickly because, even in water, methane gas is flammable.

8. You Use Well Water

Public water is monitored daily and tested regularly, so it’s much safer to drink. Those who live in or near cities typically use public water in their homes and offices, but rural communities often rely on well water.

Well water poses more of a risk for contamination because it’s only filtered through the soil near the well. If you use well water, it’s good to test it seasonally — at least four times each year.

Any time you have questions about your well water, you can call your local health department and ask for a water testing kit. They’ll help you analyse the results and recommend the right steps you should take to purify your water.

9. Your Septic System Is Old

While you can go up to 25 years without replacing your septic system, it may begin to leak as it gets closer to that age. Leaking septic tanks impact groundwater sources nearby, including well water. If your groundwater smells, tastes or looks contaminated, consider when your septic system was installed and if you’ve had it inspected recently.

10. You Think Something’s Off

When it comes to your drinking water, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You don’t need to wait for stains in your tub or dark brown water to flow out of your faucet before you order a testing kit.

Call your local health department or water filtration service with any questions you might have. They’ll know how to figure out what your water needs so that you can get back to drinking purified, refreshing water.


Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability freelance writer and blogger from Lancaster, PA. Check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for the latest updates.