How to Test Spring Water for Drinkability

test spring water for how drinkable it is

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There are a lot of relevant skills that each camper should have if they want to have an easy time exploring the outdoor trails and campgrounds.

When you’re at camp, you will need to eat properly and drink water regularly to stay fit and active. Hiking on different daunting trails will get you sweating and thirsty.

It’s important that you always have your drinkable water at hand whenever your throat gets parched. However, you must not be weighed down with excessive loads while hiking – you need to trade the cumbersome plastic water packs for a refillable water bottle.

When you’re out hiking on a trail, you might not be able to find running taps or fountains to refill your water bottle. This means that you must have some other method of getting drinkable water whenever your reserve gets empty.

Well-seasoned hikers know how to source for natural water that’s drinkable. There are usually water sources around hiking trails, but the water must first be tested to know its purity level. In this article, we will show you how to test spring water before drinking it.

How to Test Spring Water for Drinking

There are various factors that would determine if you would even be sourcing for spring water in the first place.

Some campers aren’t really into deep exploration activities; they might be prepared to hull as much luggage as needed to make their camping trip luxurious. People like this would not have any trouble with packing as much clean bottled water as they want.

However, some of us might want to do a lot of activities at camp – backpacking style – and we would want to travel light. It’s better for backpack campers to have a good refillable bottle for natural water.

The need to source for extra water at camp is the primary reason for learning how to test it. Testing the water before drinking it will show you whether it’s safe or not.

Why You Should Test Spring Water

When you find your potable water source, it might look clean. However, you must understand that there are harmful microorganisms that won’t be seen with the naked eye. This is why testing the water is important.

Here are some key points to convince you on why you should test spring water:

  • Failure to test spring water could cause recurrent gastrointestinal distress.
  • You must keep in mind that your kids might not be resistant to illnesses from infected water.
  • No matter how clean the spring water looks, there’s still a good chance that it’s contaminated.
  • The property you’re sourcing water from might not have been used in several years.
  • Not all signs of contamination would be obvious to you.
  • If there’s a large population of people and animals nearby, the water is more likely to be polluted.
  • The spring may have been dangerously poisoned with chemicals and fertilizers if it’s at close proximity to some farmland or animal ranch.
  • Underground water is usually turbid during the rainy season.
  • There are also other dangerous industrial facilities nearby that risk polluting the water source.

With all this said, it’s obvious that you need to learn how to test spring water so you never risk your health, or that of others, by drinking naturally-sourced water without first testing it or boiling the water. The results of the test will tell you how drinkable it is.

Test Requirements

Before coming to the conclusion whether your naturally-sourced water is drinkable or not, there are a couple of test requirements that must first be satisfied. These tests will tell you the level of harmful microorganisms present in the water.

The following test requirements should be met before you drink your naturally-sourced water:


The first thing that will be addressed is the alkalinity of water. The alkalinity level will determine whether or not your water has an acidic taste.

It’s expected that drinkable water combines bicarbonates, hydroxides, and carbonates in the right proportion for minimal, or even zero acidity.

The alkalinity of a water source can be influenced by contact with acidic rain; such contact tends to reduce the alkalinity of the water body/ source. If the spring water tests for low-level alkalinity, then the water shouldn’t be consumed.

pH Level

Another property level that’s normally tested is the pH level. The term “pH” is a fundamental term in basic science. There’s a good chance that you’ve come across it somewhere before.

The pH level determines the ionization property of water. What this simply means is that water has a tendency to dissolve metallic elements that it comes in contact with.

The pH level usually determines this tendency. The best water for drinking should have a high pH level; this will minimize the amount of harmful metal getting dissolved into the water.

Total Dissolved Solids

The total number of solids dissolved into the water is another key factor that must be taken into consideration when determining if a water source is suitable for drinking.

The TDS test is meant to reveal the magnitude of inorganic compounds that have been dissolved into the water.

The more the amount of TDS, the lower the water’s pH – and it has been mentioned earlier that low pH testing in water isn’t a good sign of drinkability. TDS tests should be done before any other tests.

Total Coliform Bacteria

When learning how to test spring water, you cannot skip the total coliform bacteria test. This test should never be skipped when checking the integrity of your naturally-sourced water.

The coliform bacteria isn’t much of an alien to human beings; this is because these bacteria are actually residents in the human intestine. However, these bacteria are usually expelled alongside waste products from the human body. Whenever this expelled waste, like poo, comes in contact with a water source, the water source would be infected with the coliform bacteria.

The total coliform bacteria test will show how much the water source has come in contact with human or some other animal’s fecal matter. The coliform bacteria can also be transferred into water by certain insects. It’s important to avoid getting infected by these bacteria as it’s quite harmful to us humans.

Purity Test Kits

When you want to test your naturally-sourced water, you might decide to use a purity test kit. However, this isn’t a must.

If you choose to deploy a purity test when checking the drinkability of water, you should find some online or in a nearby store. These testing kits are effective for checking water purity.

Types of Test Kits

The common test kits we have are:

1. PurTest Home Water Analysis Kit

With the PurTest Analysis Kit (EPA type), you can determine property levels like iron, nitrite, nitrate, copper, chlorine, pH, hardness, and alkalinity.

2. Watersafe Well Water Test Kit

This testing kit will give you information on the following property levels: hardness, pH, chlorine, nitrates, pesticide, bacteria, lead, copper, and iron.

3. Essential Indicators Test

This kit has a very extensive and effective testing ability. It’s great for checking a wide range of threatening elements in your naturally-sourced water. 

The tests carried out include tests for inorganic chemicals, heavy metals, essential elements, and organic compounds.

If there are any harmful pathogens in the water, you’d be able to detect their presence with this kit.

How to Test Without a Test Kit

Just in case you don’t have a testing kit at hand, you can still check if the water is drinkable.

  • One method of testing the water’s purity is by looking for visible particles. Pour some of the water into a transparent container and let it settle. If you can see any particles settled at the bottom or floating about in the water, then the water isn’t trustable.
  • Another way to check is with your nose. The water shouldn’t have any smell. Clean water is meant to be odorless. However, if the water has some nasty smell, it’s a clear indicator that it might be infected with some dangerous substance. 
  • You can also check the water with the aid of your tongue. If the water tastes metallic, then it’s probably contaminated with some minerals.
  • Lastly, clean water should also be colorless. If the water isn’t crystal clear, there’s a good chance of pollution.

Final Thoughts

With all this information, you should be able to source for clean, drinkable water. Remember that you must always check the water, regardless of how clean it might appear to be.

Not everyone would carry a refill water bottle; some people can afford the luxury of hulling packs of fresh bottled water. However, if you plan to travel light on your camping exercise – backpacking style – you should consider swapping the bottled water packs for a simple refillable water bottle.

Also, consider purchasing a proper purity test kit. These kits are more effective than the traditional observation methods.


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