Standard drinking water test

Water can dissolve many minerals or chemicals and transport microbiological contaminants. The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide you with information about how you can test your water to help determine if it is safe to drink. The Standard Drinking Water Test outlined in this fact sheet has been created to detect chemical and microbiological contaminants that may occur in Western Australia waters.

The Department of Health and participating chemical and microbiological laboratories have endorsed the chemical and microbiological tests contained in the Standard Drinking Water Test.

The Standard Drinking Water Test will help to tell you:

  • how safe your water is for drinking purposes
  • the levels of contamination in your drinking water
  • the aesthetic quality of your drinking water.

Standard Drinking Water Test tests conducted by participating laboratories comply with National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) requirements. Results provided by these laboratories are accepted by the Department of Health.

What will be tested?

The Standard Drinking Water Test has two components: Microbiological test and chemical quality test.

Microbiological tests

The microbiological test will identify total coliforms (a type of bacteria) and faecal coliforms in drinking water. The total coliform test will show the total bacterial loading found in the water sample. The faecal coliform test will indicate the level of faecal contamination in the water and how safe the water is to drink.

Chemical quality tests

The chemical quality test is made up of a range of chemical elements and compounds.

Some of the elements are heavy metals that may pose a risk to your health while others may only affect the taste, odour and appearance of the water (These are called ‘aesthetic’ characteristics).

The list of Chemical quality tests can be found in Table 1.

Further chemical testing may be required:

  • when a more comprehensive assessment of water quality is needed; or
  • where specific hazards occur in the catchment area (see below). 

Table 1: Standard drinking water test

Microbiological tests
Total coliforms
Thermotolerant coliforms or E. coli
Chemical quality tests
Rainwater
(Roof Collection)
Other Sources
(e.g. Bore / Dam water) 
 Aluminium
Cadmium
Chloride
Copper
Total Iron
Lead
Nickel
Nitrate
Nitrite
Sodium
Sulfate
Zinc
Alkalinity
Calcium
Conductivity
Colour
Hardness
Magnesium
pH
Potassium
Total Dissolved Solids
Total Suspended Solids
Turbidity
 Aluminium
Cadmium
Chloride
Copper
Total Iron
Lead
Nickel
Nitrate
Nitrite
Sodium
Sulfate
Zinc
Alkalinity
Calcium
Conductivity
Colour
Hardness
Magnesium
pH
Potassium
Total Dissolved Solids
Total Suspended Solids
Turbidity
 Further chemical testing
Antimony
Arsenic
Barium
Chromium
Manganese
Molybdenum
Selenium
Silver
Tin

 Ammonia
Antimony
Arsenic
Barium
Boron
Chromium
Total Cyanide
Fluoride
Hydrogen Sulfide
Manganese
Molybdenum
Selenium
Silver
Tin
Uranium

How much will the test cost?

The cost varies between different laboratories.

Please contact the laboratories listed in the table below to get quotes.

Table 2: List of NATA accredited laboratories in WA

 Laboratory Contact details
Microbiological & chemical ALS Laboratory Group
(Environmental Division)
26 Rigali Way
WANGARA WA 6065
Telephone: (08) 9406 1301
 Analytical Reference Laboratory
(Acquired ProMicro PL)
46-48 Banksia Road
WELSHPOOL WA 6106
Telephone: (08) 6253 4444
MPL Laboratories
16-18 Hayden Court
MYAREE WA 6154
Telephone: (08) 9317 2505
SGS Environmental Services 10 Reid Road
Perth International Airport
NEWBURN WA 6105
Telephone: (08) 9373 3614
Microbiological ONLY Enviro-Check Enterprises Pty Ltd 12/20 Milford Street,
EAST VICTORIA PARK, WA 6101
Telephone: (08) 6162 0574 or 0414 206 265
PathWest

J Block, Hospital Avenue
QEII Medical Centre
Nedlands, WA, 6009
Telephone: (08) 6457 2583
Silliker Microtech Pty Ltd 181 Claisebrook Road
PERTH WA 6000
Telephone: (08) 9227 6499
Chemical ONLY ChemCentre Resources and Chemistry Precinct
South Wing, Building 500
South Entrance Drive
Curtin University
BENTLEY WA 6102
Telephone: (08) 9422 9800
Genalysis - Intertek 15 Davison Street
MADDINGTON WA 6109
Telephone: (08) 9251 8100

What should I do before I take a water sample?

Before you take a sample, call the laboratories listed in Table 2 to obtain sampling bottles and information on the correct sampling procedure. Please note that your sample will not provide you with accurate information unless the:

  • correct sample bottles are used
  • correct volume is taken
  • sample is stored at the required temperature
  • sample is transported to and arrives at the laboratory in the correct time
  • correct procedure is used to take the sample.

What do the results mean?

The Department of Health is able to interpret laboratory results and provide you with general advice on how to make your water safe to drink. Microbiological and chemical laboratories may also be able to assist you with additional technical advice. However, they are not in a position to provide you with health related advice.

Will the standard drinking water test, test for all contaminants?

No. The catchment or source of your drinking water can affect the water quality in many ways. Water can dissolve chemicals and transport microbiological contaminants while it travels through or across the catchment area. It is important that you identify the hazards that occur in or on the catchment area before you test the water.

What are some hazards in catchment areas?

For rainwater collected off roofs look for:

  • intensive agriculture, industry or mining
  • a chimney from a wood burner
  • discharge pipes from roof mounted appliances such as evaporative air-conditioners or hot water systems.

For bore/dam water look for:

  • excessive or inappropriate use of fertilisers, animal manures, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides
  • poorly maintained septic tanks and other liquid waste disposal systems
  • fuel and chemical storage areas
  • intensive agriculture, industry or mining
  • accidental spills of chemicals.

If you find any of these activities or items in or on the catchment area you may need to ask for additional tests to be completed by the chemical laboratory.

It may also be possible to gain more information about your catchment area by contacting your neighbours, the local government environmental health officer or the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.

More information

Water Unit, Environmental Health Directorate

Department of Health

Telephone: (08) 9222 2000

Last reviewed: 27-06-2016
Produced by

Public Health