The parameters listed below represent a general test for drinking water quality for most healthy persons. People with medical conditions should consult their physician about parameters important to their specific health concern. Certified Well drillers, neighbours, and Public Health Inspectors might know parameters of local interest. To protect yourself from fecal contamination, drinking water from surface water, springs and shallow wells must be disinfected. The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality produced by Health Canada list the recommended levels for these parameters.
E.coli group and Total Coliform
The e.coli and total coliform tests look for fecal contamination in the water that can make you sick.
A test for Turbidity looks for cloudiness in drinking water caused by suspended particles. Bacteria, viruses and parasites can attach themselves to these particles. Health risks increase as turbidity rises.
Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Boron, Cadmium, Chromium, Cyanide, Fluoride, Lead, Mercury, Nitrates, Selenium, Uranium. These tests look for metals and chemicals that can cause illness at low concentrations.
Alkalinity, Calcium, Chlorides, Colour, Conductance, Copper, Hardness, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, PH, Sodium, Sulphate, Total Dissolved Solids, Zinc.
These tests are for items that can affect consumer acceptance and suitability for household uses like bathing, washing, and laundry. At elevated concentrations, these parameters can become health concerns. Infants and person with medical conditions or special diets should consult their physician as they may benefit from lower concentrations than are recommended by the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.
The laboratory you choose should be accredited by the Canadian Association for Environmental Analytical Laboratories. Contact these labs for information on testing parameters such as sulphide, if you notice a "rotten egg" colour, or petroleum products, herbicides and pesticides. The laboratories will provide information on pricing, sample bottles and how to take samples. They might also provide an interpretation of the results.
Interior Health - Health Protection July 2008