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:

  • whether your water is suitable for drinking or food preparation
  • the levels of contaminants in your water
  • the aesthetic quality of your water.

Standard Drinking Water Test tests conducted by participating laboratories comply with National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) (external site) 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 faecal coliform test (most commonly tested for thermotolerant coliforms or Escherichia coli) 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 species.

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 / Ground water) 

 Aluminium
Cadmium
Chloride
Copper
Fluoride1
Iron
Lead2
Manganese
Nickel
Sodium
Sulfate
Zinc
Alkalinity
Calcium
Conductivity
Colour
Hardness
Magnesium
pH
Potassium
Total Dissolved Solids
Total Suspended Solids
Turbidity

 Aluminium
Cadmium
Chloride
Copper
Fluoride1
Iron
Lead2
Manganese
Nickel
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
Molybdenum
Selenium
Silver

 Ammonia
Antimony
Arsenic
Barium
Boron
Chromium
Total Cyanide
Hydrogen Sulfide
Lanthanum
Molybdenum
Nitrate
Nitrite
Selenium
Silver
Uranium

Preferred limit of detection for fluoride is 0.1 milligrams per litre.

Preferred limit of detection for lead is 0.001 milligrams per litre.

How much will the test cost?

The cost varies between different laboratories.

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

Table 2: List of participating NATA accredited laboratories in WA

 Laboratory Contact details
Microbiological & chemical ALS Laboratory Group
(Environmental Division) (external site)
26 Rigali Way
WANGARA WA 6065
Telephone: (08) 9406 1301
 Eurofins | ARL (external site)
46-48 Banksia Road
WELSHPOOL WA 6106
Telephone: (08) 6253 4444
MPL Laboratories (external site)
16-18 Hayden Court
MYAREE WA 6154
Telephone: (08) 9317 2505
SGS Environmental Services (external site) 28 Reid Road
Perth International Airport
NEWBURN WA 6105
Telephone: (08) 9373 3500
Microbiological ONLY Symbio Laboratories (previously Enviro-Check Enterprises Pty Ltd) (external site) Unit 2, 2-4 Mallaig Way (cnr Modal)
CANNING VALE, WA, 6155
Telephone: 1300 703 166
PathWest (external site)

J Block, Hospital Avenue
QEII Medical Centre
Nedlands, WA, 6009
Telephone: (08) 6457 2583
Mérieux NutriSciences (previously Silliker Microtech Pty Ltd) (external site) 181 Claisebrook Road
PERTH WA 6000
Telephone: (08) 9227 6499
BVAQ (external site)  Unit 2, 26 Ilda Road
CANNING VALE WA 6155
Telephone: (08) 9445 9600 
Chemical ONLY ChemCentre (external site) Resources and Chemistry Precinct
South Wing, Building 500
South Entrance Drive
Curtin University
BENTLEY WA 6102
Telephone: (08) 9422 9800
Intertek Australia (external site) 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, contact the laboratory to obtain sampling bottles and information on the correct sampling procedure. Please note that your sample will not provide you with accurate information about your water 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 water safe to drink. Laboratories may also be able to assist you with additional technical advice about the analysis. However, laboratories 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 water can affect the water quality in many ways, especially after heavy rainfall or fire. 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
  • lead flashing on roofs or near chimneys
  • 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: 09-11-2020
Produced by

Public Health