Water Testing


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    Water Testing

    bannerWhen should I get my water tested?

    Test if...

    • Your well does not meet construction codes.
    • The area around the wellhead has been flooded or submerged.
    • Back-siphoning has occurred.
    • You have mixed or used pesticides near the well, or have spilled pesticides or fuel near the well.
    • You have a heating oil tank or underground fuel tank near the well that you know has leaked.
    • You are pregnant, are planning a pregnancy, or have an infant less than 6 months old.
    • Your septic system absorption field, or your neighbor's, is close to the well (within 100 feet).
    • Wondering about the quality of your irrigation water? (Contact your local county extension agent or the USU Analytics Lab.)

    What should I test for?

    Test annually for:

    • Nitrates
    • Coliform Bacteria

    Testing for fecal coliform and/or total bacteria is a good place to start. Depending on the results of that test, you may be advised to test for other contaminants such as metals, sediment, or organic pollutants. A presence of live coliforms in your water is an indication that surface water is entering your drinking water, which means that other pollutants will likely be found in your water as well.

    Another common starting test for drinking water is nitrates. A value higher than 10 ppm (mg/L) can threaten your health especially if you are pregnant or nursing, and can threaten the health of infants. A presence of nitrates in your water indicates surface water contamination of your drinking water.

    If your water has specific symptoms and you would like to figure out what to test for check the table below or view North Dakota State University Water Quality Extension's page, What's Wrong With My Water?.

    For more information about managing your well or to take a free class about private wells check out: The Private Well Class.

    Conditions or Nearby Activities:

    Test for:

     Recurring gastro-intestinal illness

     Coliform bacteria

     Household plumbing contains lead 

     pH, lead, copper

     Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich


     Corrosion of pipes, plumbing

     Corrosion, pH, lead

     Nearby areas of intensive agriculture

     Nitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria

     Coal or other mining operations nearby

     Metals, pH, corrosion

     Gas drilling operations nearby

     Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium

     Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-  cleaning operation nearby

     Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH,  sulfate, chloride, metals

     Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or  buried fuel tanks

     Volatile organic compounds

     Objectionable taste or smell

     Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals

     Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry

     Iron, copper, manganese

     Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway  nearby

     Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium

     Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather


     Rapid wear of water treatment equipment

     pH, corrosion

     Water softener needed to treat hardness

     Manganese, iron

     Water appears cloudy, frothy, or colored

     Color, detergents

    How do I collect a sample?

    • First, call a lab near you that is certified for the test you need. (See next section.)
    • Use the appropriate container for the type of sample.
    • Store the sample carefully according to the instructions before taking it to the lab.
    • If you receive a container from the lab for a bacterial test, do not rinse it out. It has been sterilized and contains a preservative.
    • Some samples must be kept cool and delivered to the lab within a short period of time (often less than 24 hours) or they will not be analyzed.

      A poorly collected sample wastes your money and is worse than no sample at all. 

    Where do I get the water analyzed? 

    Use the button below for a list of labs in Utah that test water. NOTE: Not all certified labs test for all pollutants. Check with the lab before you collect any samples - collections methods, sample storage, and delivery directions are often important.    

    Utah Testing Labs

    How do I interpret the results?  What do they mean?

    • Find out what the results mean using CSU's online interpretation tool.
    • Compare your results to the Utah drinking water standards.
    • Look at the EPA's ground water and drinking water web page for more information.
    • If any values exceed the standards, DO NOT DRINK THE WATER!
    • Re-test if bacteria, nitrate or organic parameters exceed the standards.
    • If concentrations are increasing between sampling, try to determine and mitigate the sources of pollutants. 

    What are some common drinking water pollutants?

      Arsenic (pdf)  Coliform

    Coliform Bacteria (pdf)

    (for more information on bacteria click here)

      Lead (pdf)
      Pharmaceuticals (web)
      Nitrate (pdf)  Distillation Drinking Water Treatment Systems (pdf)