The importance of testing water

Feb. 3, 2015

As an industry, we must stay on top of the latest news, trends and regulations affecting water sources and educate consumers on properly testing and treating their water supplies accordingly.

Testing water sources is a critical step for anyone within or affected by the water industry — from government organizations looking to regulate waters to safeguard against environmental and health risks, to homeowners wanting to ensure their water is safe for consumption. As an industry, we must stay on top of the latest news, trends and regulations affecting water sources and educate consumers on properly testing and treating their water supplies accordingly.

Water, whether for a pubic municipality, water facility or business/home, must be tested regularly to keep the source safe and free of potential health/environmental risks. The type of test needed, and to what frequency, will depend on the unique components specific to the water source in question. The necessary water test can be impacted by factors such as local and federal regulations, location, climate/weather, infrastructure, agriculture and even the desired detection level.

In a recent article published in Water Technology by Marianne Metzger titled, "Choosing the best testing methods for your sample comes down to good lab communications," common factors influencing the type of water tests needed are discussed. Regarding one such component, regulation, Metzger explains how laws/requirements such as the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) will require public water supplies to perform certain tests to ensure the water meets regulation guidelines.

However, private wells are not federally regulated, and the well owners and operators must test and treat their water to safeguard against harmful contaminants that may be present in the well. Dealers must inform their consumers, especially those with wells, of potential risks threatening their water and urge them to test and treat their water as needed. Although how often to perform water tests will vary depending on the specific situation at hand, in general water supplies should be tested at least once per year.

Many field tests, including pH, hardness, chemical, iron and more, can be performed on-site, and are great for testing for aesthetic reasons. However in situations where serious health risks may be possible, several experts featured throughout past issues of Water Technology advise performing laboratory tests/analyses in lieu of on-site tests. Although more expensive, the lab analyses often offer more in-depth and accurate results needed when harmful contaminants may be present.

Advancements in technology

Although most testing methods using colorimetry and spectrophotometery haven’t seen "significant" changes since the 1950s, various improvements regarding precision, sensitivity, efficiency, consistency and convenience have been made. And, as advancements in technologies continue to evolve, so will the correlating testing methods; thus water dealers must stay up to date on these advancements to ensure they are informing customers and prospects on the latest testing and treatment solutions available.

Advancements in technology have made a substantial impact regarding analytical testing precision. More and more emerging contaminants (ECs) are being uncovered than ever before in water supplies. Analytical testing can almost routinely find many contaminants at parts per trillion (ppt); and as technology continues to advance, these levels will become lower and lower, resulting in even more ECs that have not, or could not, be discovered before.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take several ECs and compile a list, called the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) every five years to be analyzed by thousands of public water systems in search of candidates for future regulation. The data collected from the UCMRs is stored in the National Contaminant Occurrence Database (NCOD) and assists in guiding the selection process for the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL).

CCLs includes substances not currently regulated in drinking water, but may be in the future. Dealers should start to pay attention to the contaminants listed on CCLs, as these contaminants have dwindled down from an often extensive list of ECs to a select few with possible health risks. These ECs have the potential to change the treatment technologies and products currently on the market, as not one single water treatment technology can treat every contaminant affecting water sources.

Educating prospects and customers on health/environmental risks in water sources and encouraging them to test and treat their water accordingly not only helps increase their understanding of these possible threats, but also instills a level of trust that can lead to overall enhanced business productivity and profitability for the water treatment professional.

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