Water is an essential sustenance of life – a vital resource that not only quenches our thirst but also fuels various daily functions in our bodies. Therefore, the importance of clean, safe, and quality water cannot be overemphasised. One significant way to determine the quality, safety and suitability of water is through water quality testing. Testing your water periodically is not just a matter of taste or aesthetic appeal, but crucially, a matter of health and wellbeing.

Indeed, water quality testing has grown in prominence as our understanding of water has advanced. We now know that even the most seemingly clear and clean water can harbour invisible dangers, such as harmful bacteria, chemicals, and other pollutants. This is where water quality testing comes in, helping to proactively identify potential threats lurking in our drinking water.

The Rising Importance of Monitoring Water Quality

Today, with economic development, urbanisation and industrialisation, water pollution is an alarming reality. Various contaminants invading our water supplies can have dire health and environmental consequences. A 2019 report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed approximately 12 million Australians were concerned about their household water quality.

Gatekeeping water quality becomes an even more urgent priority as climate change intensifies, bringing floods and droughts that can drastically affect water quality. For instance, in 2016, Adelaide’s water supply was briefly affected by a turbid water event following extreme rainfall and flooding, highlighting the vulnerability of our water sources.

Understanding Water Quality

To make sense of water quality, we must first understand what makes water ‘good’. “Good” water quality is not just about the absence of harmful substances but also represents a well-balanced composition of minerals beneficial to our health. These standards are established through a range of metrics like pH level, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), and presence of certain elements like iron, calcium and magnesium.

Different nations apply differing guidelines for water quality standards. In Australia, the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) – developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council – define the parameters for safe, high-quality water. It cites standards for physical parameters (like colour, taste, and temperature), chemical parameters (like heavy metals and pesticides), and biological parameters (like E.coli and Cryptosporidium).

How Water Quality Impacts our Health

Contaminated water can harbour a range of harmful organisms and toxins that can lead to waterborne diseases. For example, E.coli, a bacterium found in faecal matter, can cause severe gastrointestinal illnesses if ingested through contaminated drinking water.

One of the most prominent examples of tainted water leading to widespread disease is the Flint, Michigan, water crisis in the United States. Residents were exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, leading to a steep rise in reported cases of Legionnaire’s disease and other health issues. The event marked a tragic reminder of the significance of regular water testing.

Understanding Water Quality Testing: An Essential Step for Safety

Water quality testing involves analysing a water sample for various physical, chemical, and biological properties. These can range from simple tests (like checking for pH level or turbidity) to more complex ones (like toxin or pathogen identification). Many different methods and technologies are employed in these processes, from basic litmus paper tests to sophisticated spectroscopy.

Regular testing of water, especially in rural areas or households with private water supplies, is vital. For instance, those with wells or bore water need to remain vigilant about potential groundwater contamination from agricultural or industrial activities nearby. In this context, timely testing can prevent possible health risks and ensure water safety.

How to Conduct Water Quality Tests at Home

You can conduct basic water quality testing at home, such as checking for pH and hardness. However, more intricate contaminants, such as lead and bacteria, require a professional water test. Basic kits to test parameters like pH, hardness, and harmful bacteria are widely available online.

To use these kits, simply collect a sample of your water in a clean container, as per the kit’s instructions. Apply the necessary reagents or test strips included in the kit and wait for the results. The kit comes with a guide to help you interpret the results correctly.

Professional Water Testing Services: When and Why You Need Them

While home testing kits can provide rudimentary information, they might not be sufficient in assessing the safety of your drinking water entirely. In instances where your home testing indicates an issue or where you notice a persistent change in the taste, colour, or smell of your water, it’s advisable to seek professional water testing services.

They offer services like toxin identification, microbiological testing, and hazardous mineral identification, among others. Their detailed reports provide a comprehensive view of your water’s safety status.

The Role of Government in Ensuring Water Quality

The Australian government plays a pivotal role in safeguarding water quality through strategic legislation and policies. The National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) outlines comprehensive approaches to water quality management. The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, supported by both the national and local government, are instrumental in maintaining high-quality drinking water.

As citizens, it’s essential to remain aware of local water quality issues and abide by government advisories. The government regularly releases updated water quality reports for different regions, providing an easy way for residents to stay informed about their water safety.

From Testing to Action: Improving Your Water Quality

Once you’ve received your water test results, the next step is taking action to address any problems. If your water has been classified as hard or contains high iron or other mineral content, consider installing a high-quality water softening system. If bacteria or other harmful pathogens are detected, UV purification technology can be an effective solution.

For more common contaminants such as chlorine, a simple activated charcoal filter can be a great home solution to improve the taste and remove any potential toxins. Remember that improving water quality isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, it will depend on the specific issues identified in your test results.


Testing our drinking water for quality and safety is imperative to ensuring our health and wellbeing. It provides us with the assurance we need that every sip we take is not only quenching our thirst but is also free from harmful pollutants. Let’s ensure we recognise the importance of drinking water safety and contribute our bit to preserving this vital resource.