The quality of the water you use for drinking, bathing, swimming and other daily tasks has a profound impact on your health. Water contamination can cause bacterial and parasitic diseases, cancer, neurological problems, kidney problems, pregnancy complications, developmental abnormalities and other serious health issues. This potential for harm means that water testing and quality control are critical for ensuring your health and the health of your family.
Your first step in investigating the state of your tap water should be to check with your municipal water supplier for a quality report. If you have well water, get your water from another private source or need more information than your municipal report provides, you should consider private water testing.
Community water suppliers must comply with government water testing regulations and submit their results to regulatory agencies. Water test results must show that all municipal water supplies meet federal drinking water standards. If there are dangerous contaminants in the water, the supplier must notify all customers of the issue.
In addition to notifying you of hazardous substances in your water, your municipal supplier must send you an annual report detailing the contents of your tap water. Most suppliers send quality reports in July with monthly water bills. You can also request a copy of your water test results by contacting your water provider. To find your provider's contact information, check your water bill or visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website.
If you get your water from a well or other private supply, your water is not subject to government quality testing. If this is the case, the EPA recommends that you have your water tested regularly at a certified laboratory to verify its safety and quality.
In Canada, each province and territory is responsible for establishing its own quality standards and regulating municipal water supplies. Most provinces comply with national water guidelines, and all municipal water suppliers in Canada are required to keep detailed records about water quality testing and treatment.
For more information on testing requirements in your province, contact your municipal supplier. You can also find information on the subject at the website of your province or territory.
Private Water Testing
In addition to government water testing, private testing is available in both the United States and Canada. Private laboratories can test for a wide range of chemical and biological contaminants.
Both the U.S. and Canadian governments recommend that all homeowners who get their water from private supplies have their water tested regularly at a certified laboratory. In addition, homeowners who suspect problems with their municipal water, who are concerned about chemicals not included in local testing protocols or who fear that their water is being contaminated due to a plumbing issue can also have their water privately tested.
If you are interested in having your water tested, you should be sure to choose a laboratory accredited and certified by a recognized certification body. Certified laboratories must meet specific quality control standards and use approved testing methods. This means they produce accurate results.
If you live in the United States, you can find a certified laboratory by calling your state certification officer or by using the interactive map located on the EPA's website. If you live in Canada, you can find an appropriate testing laboratory by contacting your territory or province's water division or by visiting the website of one of Canada's accrediting bodies. The two organizations that accredit laboratories for tap water testing in Canada are the Standards Council of Canada and the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation.