Although it is possible to detect thousands of chemicals in your water at very low concentrations, this can become expensive and overwhelming. For people that want to learn more about their water quality, we have some inexpensive and low-tech testing alternatives.

3 Portable Field Testing Methods

The testing kits that you can find in a local store may not be as accurate or reliable as laboratory testing, but they can give you some useful information. Let’s take a look at three portable field water testing options in more detail:

1.   Testing Strips

These are single-use strips that you dip in the water, and they change color to give the user a visual representation of certain chemical concentrations. The strip is made from plastic or paper and it’s simply dipped in the water and swirled around. An alternate approach is to hold the strip under a running stream of water. After the designated exposure time, the test strip is compared to a color chart to identify the chemical concentrations. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and understand that this is the least accurate type of testing kit.

2.   Color Disk Kit

These are available for a wide range of chemical tests, and the user adds power or liquid to a water sample in a plastic tube. This sample tube is then placed in a viewing box with a printed color gradient. The color disk is rotated to find the color that’s the best match for the sample color and the chemical concentration can be read. There are usually multiple steps to follow, and the waiting times vary. This makes a color disk a complex option, but it will be more accurate than simple testing strips.

3.   Hand-held Digital Testers

There are light and portable digital meters, photometers and colorimeters that are accurate for water testing. Of the three methods shown here, these digital instruments are the most accurate and they are more expensive. They require calibration and batteries, and they can be used for remote or continuous monitoring.

Chemical Water Testing

UNICEF prioritizes water testing for arsenic, nitrate, and fluoride in areas that are rich in those minerals:

Arsenic: Field testing kits are available, but they are pretty complex to use, and they may be inaccurate. The tests can detect 100 micrograms per liter (ug/L), and some can detect in the 50-99 ug/L range. So, they can be useful for “present” and “absent” concentration references.

Nitrate: There are test strips and color disk tests for nitrate, and a digital meter can be used too. Any high levels of nutrients from agricultural fertilizers and pollution can be detected. Other locations that cause nitrate contamination include landfills, sewage, latrines, and industrial pollution.

Fluoride: A portable digital colorimeter is the best way to test for fluoride. But, there is a color disk test kit, which can test for fluoride, and it’s read with a smartphone app.

If you want to get your water professionally tested, contact your local water treatment specialist today.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.