Did you know that you can’t see, smell, or taste microbiological contaminants in your drinking water? Just because water looks clean, doesn’t mean it is. There could be all sorts of nasty bugs hiding in water that can make you sick, and the only way to know for sure is to have your water tested. As a rule, you should have your water tested once a year – and if you’re on a private well, you might want to consider testing more often.
Different labs may present the water test information a little differently, but one of the key results to look for is total coliform count.
Coliform bacteria are a group of bacteria that can come from many sources. You’ll find them living in soil and decaying vegetation, as well as in the digestive systems of humans and animals. So while most coliform bacteria are harmless, some are not. If your test results show that there are coliform bacteria in your water, your water may be contaminated with surface water, manure, or sewage.
As well as a total coliform count, your test results may include a fecal coliform count, or E. coli count. Fecal coliforms are types of coliform bacteria that live in the digestive systems of humans and animals. If your test results show any fecal coliforms or E. coli, your water is contaminated with human sewage or animal manure, and it’s not safe to drink unless you boil it.
Regardless of the water test results, though, you need to keep in mind that a water test is simply a snapshot of a certain point in time. Water quality can change quickly and often, as it can be influenced by a variety of factors, including weather events (floods and melting snow), land use (agriculture), or leaking septic systems. So a clean water test today doesn’t necessarily mean it will always be that way. However, a water test that’s positive for fecal coliforms or E. coli indicates a problem that may be long-term, and you should consider a permanent solution by taking control of the quality of your family’s drinking water.
By installing a water treatment system that includes disinfection, like ultraviolet, in your home, you can be confident that your drinking water is safe from illness-causing microbes, including fecal coliforms and E. coli. Speak with your local water treatment expert to determine what the best disinfection option is for your home.