I am constantly on the lookout for ways to take science out of that dry text book and to make it more applicable to a student’s daily life. Experiments are great ways to get kids interested in science. Partnering that with a popular current event or something that could affect a student’s life right now makes science come alive. This water quality testing experiment makes science relevant and shows why water quality is important to us all.
Water quality is currently a hot button issue in communities across the country. Harmful bacteria and high levels of chemicals and other substances that cause health problems in humans have been found in the public water supply of communities like Flint, Michigan. Since our bodies cannot live without water and our way of life revolves around the use of water from our hygiene practices to the manufacture of goods, water quality is a huge concern.
Water Quality Confidence
Citizens generally trust that water is safe. Most rely on public supplies controlled by water companies. Others get their water from ground water sources, such as wells, that are not monitored. How do we know for sure that this water is safe to drink?
The EPA now requires water supply companies to produce Consumer Confidence Reports to their customers to show their water is safe. You can get this report from your local water company or from the EPA’s website. These are yearly reports and represent the average testing data for that year. Well water from private land is not monitored.
Some people want to ensure the quality of their water, so they install water softeners and/or water filtration systems in their homes. These are designed to remove unwanted minerals, chemicals, and bacteria from the water. But, how do we know that these are doing their jobs?
Water Quality Testing At Home
If you are at all concerned about the quality of your home water supply, you can test it at home easily and inexpensively. Test Assured at WaterTestingKits.com has created water quality test kits that for a variety of substances. You can order a test that checks the level of just one water concern or a complete test kit that checks the levels of 10 substances and concerns.
Test Assured has even come up with a student water testing kit for classroom use or for science fairs that can test four different water samples.
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Water Quality Experiment
Water testing is a great experiment for students to show how science is involved in their daily lives. Comparing several water sources can lead into discussions and even further studies into the differences of those sources.
For our water quality experiment, we used the 4-Pack Kit For Schools and Science Fairs from Test Assured at WaterTestingKits.com. They were kind enough to offer me a kit to review and do our own experiment. (I was compensated for my time, but, as always, compensation does not affect my opinions.) It contains all the supplies necessary for 9 different water tests on 4 different samples of water, plus a guide to record results.
- Nitrate nitrogen
- Nitrite nitrogen
- Total dissolved solids
Choosing Water Sources
First, we determined the water sources we wanted to test. Since we have a water filtration system, we wanted to test our tap water before and after the filter. We were curious to see if the filter was really making a difference. Then, we decided to test those samples against a sample of purified bottled water.
The water testing was super easy. The kit used strips that were dipped in the water samples. Levels were determined by the color of each testing area on the strip in comparison to the included chart. This makes the testing safe and easy for all ages.
The total dissolved solids (TDS) level was determined by using the enclosed TDS monitor. Just swish it around the water sample until the reading levels out.
In our samples, we found that our municipal water source had very low levels of chlorine, iron, nitrates and nitrites. That same water source did have copper level at the upper level that the testing kit monitored. When we tested the water source from the water filter, we found that the water filter removed much of the copper.
When it came to hardness, alkalinity, TDS, and pH, there was no difference in the tap water and filtered water. Both samples contained fairly high levels of hardness, a pH of 7, and a TDS level of around 420.
The purified bottled water had some differences. While it had the same low levels of iron, nitrates, and nitrites as the other two samples, the bottled water contained a bit more chlorine than the other samples. The bottle water also had a TDS of 001, a hardness level of 0, and a pH of 6. These were much different than the other samples.
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What Do Water Testing Results Mean?
Water quality testing results give you a picture of the levels of substances in a sample of water at a given time. These levels can be indicators of problems in your water source or problems in your plumbing system (due to leaching minerals from pipes and deposits). An alarming test result might prompt you to call your local water supplier or to look into ways to improve your well water by adding a filtration system or water softener.
Comparing results from samples can help you make informed decisions about your water supply. You can determine if your water filter or softener is working. It may prompt you to start drinking bottled water. It may show you that your tap water is just as safe as bottle water.
When doing a water quality experiment with students, let them determine what the results mean and what, if any, actions should be taken based on their findings.
More Water Testing Experiment Ideas
When testing water quality, you might want to think beyond your typical water sources. Test water samples from your swimming pool, a pond, a creek, or collected rainwater. You might even test several different bottled waters. Find the difference between the bottles labeled “spring water” and those labeled “purified”.
Water testing can even make you a citizen scientist. After you finish your experiment with the water testing kit from Test Assured, you can add your tap water results to their data base to compare water quality across the country.
Order your water quality testing kit and then let me know if the result surprised you and what actions you took because of it.