*This post is sponsored by WaterTestingKits.com. I received a free kit and was compensated for my time in writing this post. Also, this post contains affiliate links.
There’s nothing quite like moving to a new city, turning on the local news for the first time, and learning of major water quality crisis in your community. That’s what happened to us when we moved to our apartment a few months ago.
Needless to say, water quality is a regular topic of conversation in our home now and it’s also why we are studying water quality and experimenting with at home water testing in our homeschool.
What more can you do when you’re new to a city and learn that a factory located nearly one hundred miles away has been dumping GenX into the primary water source for years? You learn what you can and buy bottled water until it’s safe to drink again, right?
Exploring Water Quality with At Home Water Testing
I learned pretty quickly through our local water crisis that I didn’t have a ton of resources on water quality available to me to help break this down for my kids. I was grateful to find a series of videos, lesson plans, and discussion questions from PBS Learning Media, but I wanted to find a way to help my kids connect the dots between the lessons and the water coming out of our faucets at home.
That’s where the idea of at home water testing came in. Although our local GenX contaminant problem isn’t common enough to do any in hands-on learning at this point, a science fair water testing kit was a great way to help my kids understand more about “normal” contaminants found in drinking water.
Sample Water Sources
Since we were primarily concerned with water quality on a local level, we decided to test three tap water sources and one fresh water source. Here are the details for each source :
Source A: Tap water from a small-town church located approximately 45 miles away from our home. Note: this is the only sample we used that didn’t contain water potentially contaminated by GenX.
- Source B: Tap water from my in-laws home, nearly 12 miles away from our neighborhood and on the north side of our city.
- Source C: Our tap water from the south end of our city.
Source D: Pond water from our closest park, approximately two miles away from our home.
Now that you know more about the water sources we tested, let’s look at what we discovered through our at home water testing.
Our At Home Water Testing Results
We followed the instructions in our science fair kit and started our testing process by testing alkalinity. Understanding alkalinity is important because of the role it plays in balancing pH levels.
Our readings for this test were a bit difficult to understand since there are no optimal levels for alkalinity. However, reading through this University of Wisconsin-Extension document showed us the connections between alkalinity, hardness, and pH. This helped us understand what our alkalinity results meant in regards to the other tests in the kit.
After testing alkalinity, we read the results for hardness. Though all of our samples were within normal ranges for hardness, we thought it was interesting that our water from home tested the same as the sample from the church nearly an hour away. On the other hand, the sample from the north side of town and the pond sample from the park both tested on the higher side of normal for hardness.
We also thought it was interesting to learn that hard water can increase energy bills and decrease the life of appliances. We discovered those details on WaterTestingKits.com.
The pH results were the most concerning for us. The samples from the church and our home tested well below the neutral pH value of 7, meaning they’re considered acidic. On the other hand, the sample from my in-laws’ tap tested higher than the neutral value and is considered high alkaline.
Now that we have results from our at home water testing, my kiddos and I are going to research alkalinity and pH to see what, if anything, we can do to improve these levels.
We also tested for iron, copper, chlorine, nitrates, and nitrites through our at home water testing by simply dipping our test strips into our water samples as directed. Other than copper, all of our samples had normal levels for these readings.
Copper was slightly elevated, but luckily not in any of the drinking water samples. The high copper reading came from the pond in our neighborhood park.
Lastly, we did TDS readings for each of our samples. Testing TDS — Total Dissolved Solids — isn’t so much a test for a specific contaminant, but a total amount of all organic and inorganic substances found in the sample.
Anything between 80 ppm and 500 ppm is considered to be a good reading for TDS. We weren’t terribly pleased that the sample from our home gave the lowest result at 96 ppm. The drinking water sample collected a few minutes up the road was the highest of our readings at 208 ppm.
Also worth noting, the TDS readings from the pond and the church were practically the same and both in range. The kids and I thought it was interesting that the readings were so similar despite the distance between the sources and source types.
At Home Water Testing
While I’m not happy about the GenX contaminant problems that spurred our interest in water quality, I am grateful for an opportunity to understand more about drinking water. At home water testing played a big role in our learning and I recommend these kits as a great hands-on way to learn about water quality.
Here are the available water testing kit varieties:
- 4-Pack Water Testing Kits for Schools & Science Fairs (This is the one we used.)
- Complete Home Water Testing Kit
- Lead in Water Test
- Well Water Testing Kit
You can purchase or learn more about all of these kits at WaterTestingKits.com. While you’re there, be sure to use BACKTOSCHOOL17 to save 10% off of anything on the site, but don’t procrastinate. The offer ends 10/1/17.
Better yet, you can enter to win a kit for your homeschool through the giveaway widget below:
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