There are a large number of drinking water testing labs and test kits on the market for the home water well owner. If you are trying to solve a particular well water problem such as staining, odors or corrosion there are a number of excellent well water test kits now available to analyze your water in the convenience of your home and obtain immediate results.

Why Should I Test My Well Water?

Public city water systems always examine their water supplies regularly to be certain the water is safe to drink. However there is no obligation to test a private well with the exception of bacteria when it’s initially drilled or the pump is serviced. Only you are in charge of making certain your water is safe.

The majority of private wells produce a clean, safe supply of water; however, contaminants can pollute private water wells, and unfortunately you cannot see, smell or taste the majority of them. As a result, you need to analyze your well water regularly. The decision on what to test your water for really should be based on the types of land uses in close proximity to your well. A well water test kit where you perform the tests yourself works great for many homeowners. If you suspect contamination from agriculture or industry a laboratory water test is usually recommended.

Which Tests Should Be Carried Out?

A standard mineral analysis including nitrate in addition coliform bacteria is a great place to begin. This can be done with a home well water test kit specifically designed for this purpose. If your home is near gasoline stations, industry, agricultural areas or possibly a main interstate you would probably also want to test for organic compounds, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides as well. A general mineral analysis and bacteria should be done once a calendar year or in the event your water changes in appearance suddenly.

General Minerals

A general mineral test would include calcium, magnesium, chloride, nitrate, potassium and sodium in addition to metals such as iron and manganese. If you have to deal with stains or sediment, a general mineral analysis will tell you what is causing the problem. In the event the water contains a funny taste or odor a general mineral analysis with bacteria will often let you know what is causing the problem. These tests show if the water is going to be corrosive to pipes, or form mineral scale in your pipes, as well as the levels of minerals and salts. In case you are experiencing difficulty with color in the water or brown staining supplemental tests for tannins is recommended.

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform bacteria live in soil, on plants and flowers and also in surface water. Coliform microorganisms are found in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals and fecal matter are called E.coli. A number of strains of coliform bacteria can live for long periods of time in soil and water and can be carried into well casings by insects. Coliform bacteria are the most common contaminants found in private water systems. Private water wells should be tested at least one time a year for bacteria. However, bacteria are merely among the many potential contaminants.

Lead and Copper

Testing for lead and copper should be done on “first draw” water that has been dormant in the distribution piping for at least six hours. If lead and copper concentrations are excessive as a result of domestic plumbing, they can usually be reduced to acceptable concentrations by flushing the faucet for just a few minutes prior to using water for consuming.


Nitrate forms whenever nitrogen from fertilizers, animal wastes, septic systems, public sewage sludge, decaying plants and other sources combines with oxygen rich water. In babies under 6 months old, nitrate exposure can cause a life threatening condition known as methemoglobinemia or “blue-baby syndrome.” Babies with this condition need immediate medical assistance given that it can lead to coma and death.

Test for nitrate in cases where a pregnant woman or baby is going to be consuming the water. Everyone should have their water tested for nitrate at least once. If you reside in an area within just ¼ mile of a corn, soybean or vegetable field, it is best to test your water for nitrate regularly. Well owners also need to check for nitrate on a regular basis if their well is located near an area where fertilizers are produced; or animal feed lots.

Solvents, Gas and Oil

Household and commercial solvents, gas and fuel oil are examples of volatile organic chemicals known as VOCs. Some VOCs tend to be relatively non-toxic, while others may cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems. Fuel oil and gasoline can enter into groundwater as a result of a seeping storage tank or perhaps an old oil spill. Wells that are found within ¼ mile of any active or deserted gasoline station, house or farm fuel tank or bulk storage tank have about a higher possibility of being polluted and should be analyzed at least once for VOCs.

Paint thinners, dry cleaning chemicals and industrial solvents can easily enter groundwater as a result of spills, inappropriate disposal, leaking storage tanks and landfills. Wells that are located close to a land fill, dry cleaner, automobile mechanic shop or industrial sites where solvents are used ought to be tested for VOCs.

Pesticides and Herbicides

Insecticides are chemicals employed to eliminate unwanted weeds as well as insect pests. A number of these have moved into groundwater as a result of their use on agriculture. Others have been discovered in groundwater due to spills and improper disposal. Long-term use of drinking water that contains pesticide residues may raise your likelihood of developing cancers and other severe health conditions.

If your well is situated near corn, soybean or vegetable fields, you should analyze well water for pesticides or herbicides. You should also consider a pesticide test if your well near where pesticides are manufactured or stored. Well owners who are uncertain about the use of pesticides in their area may want to think about getting their water tested at least one time for these contaminants.

Gerry Bulfin

Gerry Bulfin is a consultant specializing in water treatment systems. He is a Water Quality Association CWS IV licensed water specialist, a WQA licensed installer, and a licensed Grade II California state water treatment plant operator and also holds CA State Distribution License. Since 1989 his company has provided thousands of customized water treatment systems for contaminated well waters worldwide.
He may be contacted via the website “” or by calling 831-462-8500 or emailing “”

Maritza Pekar specializes in water softener