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Do you suspect that your water may be contaminated? Troubleshoot with the following pointers!

A preliminary visual inspection would give you an indication about the nature of the contaminants. Run your tap for 15 minutes. Take a sample of water in a glass and observe the physical characteristics.

                  • Is the water turbid? Do solid particles settle after 30 mins into distinct layers?
                  • What is the colour of the water? Does the colour still persist after filtration (e.g. using a coffee filter paper)
                  • Does the water have an objectional odour (rotten / phenolic / metallic)? Is the water tasting peculiar?


Observations Possible Contaminants
Foamy Surfactants
Blackish colour Bacterial growth, Manganese ions
Brownish / reddish colour Iron ions, Algae
Dark brown / yellow colour Organic matter or pigments
White deposits Hardness
Earthy, muddy odour Organic matter, bacteria
Greenish colour Algae
White cloudy colour with chlorine smell Chlorine residual
Rotten egg smell Hydrogen sulfide
Metallic Taste Copper, Zinc, other dissolved metals
Recurring GI infections Bacteria & Protozoa


Most of the answers to the above questions would point towards physical contamination of water, possibly due to inefficient treatment at the water treatment facility or seepage through the conveyance network. Physical contaminants can be easily removed at your home by simple filtration. BUT, the greatest danger lies in the dissolved contaminants which you cannot SEE, TASTE or SMELL! Visual inspections are effective but they are limited by the human senses. Clear water does not always equate to PURE water! Find out more about the geographic distribution of contaminants in the US and their health effects by clicking here.


If you don’t want to just assume that your water is safe to drink, here is what you can do:

1. Find out and regularly monitor Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) from your local water supplier. The CCR is an annual report which tells you where is the water sourced from and what are the constituents. You can also access these CCR by state, on EPA’s website.

2. Contact an accredited water laboratory to take a sample and carry out analytical testing of your water.  Alternatively, some laboratories, provide kits which you can buy online, collect the water sample and ship to them. They carry out the analytical tests and share the results in a very comprehensive manner. You can also contact EPA/State certified laboratories for drinking water, by state.

3. Test your water yourself though a DIY kit. Most of these kits come as test strips or color disk kits. They are comprehensive yet fairly straight forward and color coded for your ease of interpretation. They are also a cheaper option as compared to a laboratory analysis.


How Frequently to Test?

Ideally, you should test your water once a year and compare it to the CCR report of your water supplier. However, if your household members are frequently sick from GI disorders, then it is in your benefit to get your water tested for total coliforms, regularly. In rare occasions when a chemical/oil spill happens in the vicinity of your water source, you should test the water for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals for your own peace of mind!