If you have concerns that your drinking water is unsafe, contact your local water system officials (those who send you a water bill if you are on a public water system). Ask for the latest complete analysis of the water. Ask what the results mean. If you still want to have other tests done on your water or if you are using well water, there are several options you may exercise. For a bacterial test, contact your county health department office. Charges for a bacterial test range from $10 to $50 dollars.

To test for chemical contamination, contact your local water system or a certified laboratory. Private testing laboratories are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book; make sure the state health department certifies them. Tests for chemical contaminants range from $10 to several hundred dollars. Invest time reading about water quality and health "risk" factors. Understand the difference between harmful "contaminants" and the minerals commonly found in our water supply that poses no health risks. Such information can be quite enlightening.

In summary, learn what home water treatment systems can (and cannot) do so you can evaluate what a seller is promising. Asking a lot of questions is okay. After all, this is your drinking water and you have a right to know. Asking for additional information is okay. Asking to have another testing agency verify the results is okay. It is okay to be skeptical. You are much better off not buying than spending your money for something that may have limited or no benefits.

Use this work sheet to prepare for a visit from a water treatment salesperson. Steps 1-4 should be completed in advance of the visit. Complete the rest of the work sheet as you discuss various water treatment system alternatives for your home. You may want to have several copies of this work sheet available for notes about different treatment systems you are considering.

Review your water treatment needs.

  1. Have your water tested and list test results below: acidity; alkalinity; arsenic; bacteria; cadmium; chloride; conductivity; hardness; hydrogen sulfide gas; iron; lead; mercury; nitrate; organic chemicals; sediment; sodium sulfate.
  2. Review information about health and appearance impacts of your water contaminants. Note the special concerns.
  3. Review treatment choices and list those that might be appropriate for your particular water problem(s).
  4. Is the supplier reputable and reliable? Evaluate the quality of the water treatment system.
  5. Where is the product made? Is it made in U.S.A?
  6. How much space does the treatment system need?
  7. Does the treatment system need specially treated water to function properly?
  8. How many gallons of water does your family use per day? (Base your estimates on: 2 quarts per family member per day for drinking and cooking; 60 gallons per family member per day for treating all the water in the home; and 25 gallons per person per day for treating hot water only.)
  9. Have you compared the volume of water available from the treatment system to the volume needed by your family?
  10. Check the rate of water flow that you prefer where the treatment device will be installed. Does the flow rate of the device meet the needs of your family?
  11. Have you reviewed and understood the instructions for operation and maintenance that come with the treatment system?
  12. How many gallons of water can the treatment system process before replacement parts or maintenance will be needed?
  13. Have you installed a device to monitor your water use? Do you understand how to reasonably estimate when maintenance will be needed?
  14. Will you need to hire a technician to replace parts or maintain the treatment unit?
  15. How much will it cost for maintenance each year?
  16. Other comments about this system: Estimate the cost of the treatment system.
  17. Water system purchase and installation: Cost of water treatment system $; Cost of installation; Other installation costs.
  18. Replacement costs: Frequency of replacement; Cost of service needs $; Parts to be serviced or replaced; Total annual service costs $.
  19. Special design considerations: Additional electrical costs per month to operate system $; Additional water costs per month $; Any other cost to operate system $.
  20. Total annual operation costs $.
  21. .

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