There are a number of testing kits on the market today, so it is important that you choose one that tests for bacteria, and heavy metals, in particular, lead and one that tests for pesticides as well. Many of the test kits cover the most common contaminants in your drinking water. Keep in mind, there are acceptable levels of certain contaminants and then there are contaminates that you simply do not want any traces of in your drinking water.
You certainly do not want any traces of pesticides or other chemicals in your water nor do you want any bacteria present. One thing to note when it comes to testing for bacteria, the test may take up to 48 hours to determine if your water has bacteria in it. This is not ideal for those that find themselves in a survival situation, but filtering and proper purification methods can help remove and destroy the bacteria.
Purification using tablets or drops or by boiling will not remove pesticides or neither heavy metals nor any other chemical contaminates. Distillation, which is somewhat of a complicated and time-consuming method if you are in a survival situation, will remove most, if not all contaminants, leaving you with purified water. Proper filtration will, however, help remove pesticides, petroleum products, herbicides and certain heavy metals. Filtration should always be the first step, then purification and then use the testing kit to determine the level of metals and other contaminates left behind so you can gauge how well your filtration method is working.
Your test kit should include the means to test for iron, copper, lead, bacteria, pesticides, nitrates, nitrites, chlorine, pH and hardness, these are the 10 most common contaminants found in drinking water. The testing kits are typically used to test your well water or water piped in from your local municipality. However, the testing kits can be used to test your filtration devices to ensure the filtering mediums are removing metals, pesticides and other contaminates if you live off grid or find yourself in a wilderness survival situation.
Just because the area you find yourself in is remote and with no obvious signs of ground contaminants does not mean that the surface water source is free of pesticides, or other chemical contaminates. What happens miles upstream will have an effect on the water you collect miles downstream.
Again, the bacteria test can take up to 48 hours, so if you cannot wait 48 hours before you need water, then it is important that you filter, and then boil or treat any surface water source with purification tablets or drops before drinking.
Well water needs to be tested on a regular basis. In certain areas, the testing may need to be completed more often, and always after heavy rains or flooding. Ground runoff can contaminate your well water if the well is not capped properly or the water level rises above the well cap or housing.
Even the water you receive from your local city or town needs to be tested periodically for bacteria, metals and again in particular tested for lead.
Some of the testing kits are designed to be used once. The kits with testing strips can be used, but sometimes the results are mixed and you may not get as accurate a reading as you would with some of the other kits. Typically the testing strips only test for hardness, pH levels, chlorine and some metals. The complete test kits test for all 10 of the most common contaminants so it may be a good idea to have several of these kits on hand and certainly have one in your survival kit for testing surface water sources.