Is My Water Safe to Drink? Part 2

filling glass with water from the tap

The short answer is probably not.

The only way to know if your water is safe is to test it. Local water utilities are required to send you a yearly report with a breakdown of contaminants and information about whether or not they meet federal safety standards. Unfortunately, legal does not necessarily equal safe. Getting a passing grade from the federal government does not mean the water meets the latest health guidelines.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) offers a free Tap Water Database on their website so you can check your water by entering your zip code. The drinking water quality report shows the results of tests conducted by your local water utility, by your state’s Environment Department, and by the U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History database.

If you are serviced by the Albuquerque Water System, you have 33 detected contaminants in your water, 16 of which exceed the EWG’s health standards. 15 of the toxins either cause cancer or are suspected carcinogens. The level of arsenic in the water is 585 times EWG’s health guidelines.

How Do I Test My Water?

Professional Testing or At-Home Testing?

Figuring out the best way to test your water depends on the specific contaminants that are concerning you. If it’s something simple, you can try using an at-home testing kit. But if it’s a more serious issue, you might want to get it analyzed by professionals in a laboratory. Here are some general guidelines to help you out:

1. Do some research to determine which pollutants are common in your area or may be specific to your situation (such as lead pipes in an older home). This will help you choose the appropriate testing methods and kits.

2. When using an at-home testing kit: There are many different types of at-home testing kits available, ranging from simple test strips to more comprehensive kits that require sending a sample to a lab. Follow the instructions carefully and send your sample to a reputable lab for analysis. All labs are not the same.

3. Hire a professional: If you have concerns about more complex contaminants, or if you want a more comprehensive analysis, you may want to hire a professional to test your water.

Also, if you are unsure of what contaminants you want to test for, then a professional can help you narrow down the types of tests you need. The Environmental Protection Agency sets legal limits on more than 90 pollutants in water, but you can literally test for hundreds of contaminants, and it can get expensive. If you live near agricultural fields, then you may want to order a pesticide panel. But if you live in the city, not far from industrial sites, then heavy metals are your primary concern. And remember, legal doesn’t equal safe.

Ensuring the safety of your water is crucial to protecting your health. Testing is the only reliable way to know exactly what is in your water. The existing data indicates millions of Americans are drinking polluted water. Be proactive and test.

If your water is contaminated, what do you do? Part 3 of this 3-part blog series explains all the steps you can take to clean up your water.