Frequently asked questions

Q: Is my water safe to drink?

When you look at a water test report, the values reported for each parameter may seem confusing. The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) provide a framework for defining water that is safe to drink.

Visit www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/eh52 to find out more.

Q: Who can use our services?

We offer a range of professional water services to the community. Our current clients include local councils, government agencies and individuals who own water tanks, bores and swimming pools, businesses such as pumping and irrigation, nurseries, and industries such as manufacturing and health care, and environmental groups – to name a few. A wide variety of water testing suites are available to the general public.

Q: Who should test their water?

Clients who require water testing include:

  • Local Governments – for drinking water and wastewater.
  • Commercial swimming pool owners - pools contained within hotels and hospitals.
  • Developers (construction projects) - when developing new mains, performing civil engineering / building works and supplies.
  • Trade waste dischargers - such as laundries, car washes, engineering workshops, food and beverage industry.
  • Property owners – for drinking water (rain water tanks and bore water), stock water, water used for horticulture and nurseries.

Good reasons to have your water tested:

  1. Human health – safe drinking water
    Nothing is more important than the health of your family and visitors. If you use your own water source for drinking, you need to have it tested regularly. You don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting sick by drinking your water. Your drinking water should contain no harmful concentrations of chemicals or pathogens and ideally it should be aesthetically pleasing in regard to appearance, taste and odour. Our laboratory measures your drinking water against the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines to assess the safety and aesthetic qualities of the water.
  2. Stock health
    Wondering why your stock is looking poor or malnourished? It’s important to get the stock water checked to ensure it’s suitable. The water may have an unacceptable chemical composition (e.g. too acidic or alkaline or high concentrations of certain elements) or be physically unsuitable with the presence of toxic blue-green algae species.
  3. Plants, nursery and crop health
    Plant nutrition can be significantly affected by the quality of the water you apply to plants. It’s important you know the quality of the water and whether it can effectively dissolve fertiliser. If you don’t pay attention to this, and have no information about the quality of the water you use for your plant watering systems, plant growth may be inhibited.
  4. Protecting pipes and equipment
    Irrigation and hot water systems are expensive to replace. You can keep them in goood condition longer by regularly checking the water quality.
    Calcium salts in the water can form a white crust of calcium carbonate. These deposits will accelerate the formation of milkstone (a combination of calcium deposits, proteins, phosphates) on farm equipment and eventually block irrigation equipment and affect hot water systems.Some waters are corrosive and will strip metals such as aluminium and copper and its alloys (bronze and brass). Dissolved copper shows up as green stains on washbasins and baths when the water comes into contact with soap or other alkaline materials.
  5. Aesthetics
    Worried about the way your bore or tank water looks, smells or tastes? Does the water have unexplained particulate floating around or does it smell peculiar? We have the experience to help diagnose your aesthetic water quality worries. It may be more than just aesthetics, so why take that chance?
  6. Future investment
    We need to monitor and protect our alternative and future water sources. Our current water sources are under enormous pressure through climate change, increased demand and pollution. Monitoring water quality will enable us to better understand and protect our aquatic ecosystems into the future.

Q: Water testing – How does it work?

Getting the water from your bore, tank or swimming pool tested for quality or contamination is easier than you think. We handle nearly all of the work allowing the entire process to be completed in five simple steps.

  1. Collect a sample from the water source you want to have tested (we can provide bottles if needed). For detailed instructions read our water sample preservation and handling guidelines. A water testing technician can also collect the samples for you for a fee.
  2. Download, print and complete our sample submission form.
  3. Deliver (or arrange for someone to deliver) the sample and completed form to our laboratory in Mackay (see our location map and business hours).
  4. Pay the applicable fees by cash, cheque or credit card.
  5. Turnaround time for results is up to 10 working days after the water samples are received by our laboratory. We review the laboratory results and email you a convenient report that summarises the test results which outlines the level of each contaminant.

Q: Why test your drinking water?

Where do you get your drinking water from? Is it from a water tank?

Your drinking water might look clean, clear and inconspicuous, but what lurks within?

Harmful chemical and biological contaminants can end up in your drinking water and can be impossible to detect with the naked eye.

Q: How long does it take to get my results? How long does testing take?

For standard tests we work to a 10 day turnaround. This time can be extended due to increased workloads or circumstances beyond our control. A surcharge will apply for rapid turnaround.

Q: What is the quality of my rainwater?

While tank water systems provide very palatable water, they are particularly vulnerable to faecal pollution. Birds and other small animals, such as possums, leave their droppings on roofs and in gutters. These wash directly into the tank whenever there is rain or a storm. Roofs, gutters and tanks are often inadequately maintained and cleaned. This neglect compromises the quality of the water collected.

When tanks are tested for contamination, they more often than not fail standard faecal pollution tests. In urban areas the presence of airborne contaminants (for example, lead from exhaust emissions) may make collected rainwater unsuitable for drinking.

In addition, because of the low buffering capacity of rainwater it is not uncommon to see elevated levels of copper and lead in rainwater that is distributed to the house via copper pipes.

Q: What should I test my rainwater for?

If faecal contamination is suspected, an E.coli test is an ideal indicator. Chemical testing for rainwater tanks should only be required in exceptional circumstances, or if there are specific concerns, as wide ranging screening tests are expensive.

Q: What should I test my bore water for?

Bore water should be tested for faecal contamination as well as basic physico-chemical parameters. Most often, it is the saltiness of your groundwater that is most offensive and will prevent you drinking it. Monitoring simple things like pH and electrical conductivity will allow you to make informed decisions about the water’s potential effects.

Consider testing your groundwater for pesticides, organic chemicals, nutrients, and heavy metals before you use it for the first time. The quality of a bore is liable to change over time, so it is advisable to test bore water periodically if it is to be used for drinking.

Q: Is my water corrosive or likely to become corrosive?

By testing your water quality and evaluating the data, we can determine the water’s potential to be corrosive or precipitate scale. Ignoring the signs of corrosive water could result in aesthetic problems, increased levels of toxic metals, deterioration of household plumbing and a significant damage bill.

Indications that your water may be corrosive include, but are not limited to, copper pipe pitting and leaking and blue-green discoloration around plumbing or tap fittings.

Q: Blue or green coloured water in the bathroom

Have you noticed blue water or a blue stain on the tiles or fixtures in your bathroom? Blue or green discoloured water is usually attributed to the degradation of copper pipes in household plumbing.

The problem is caused by a combination of factors including water chemistry and temperature, as well as bimetallic contact when the water comes into contact with soap or other alkaline materials.

Q: How should I collect a water sample?

Please refer to the Sample Handling and Storage Requirements Procedure.

Q: When can I drop off water samples at your laboratory?

Monday to Friday 7:30am to 2pm (excluding public holidays)

Q: What levels are considered safe to drink?

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines has been formulated to provide advice on the acceptable limits for drinking water. Visit ADWG guidelines for details.

Q: Why does drinking water sometimes appear cloudy?

Cloudy water is often caused by air in the pipes and is not harmful in any way.  The appearance of your water may range from a light cloudiness to a very milky/opaque colour.  After a while, the bubbles rise to the top and disperse and the water will become clear.

Q: Why does drinking water sometimes appear discoloured?

Occasionally, drinking water may have a slight brown tinge to it. This is largely due to elevated concentrations of iron and manganese. There is no cause for alarm as the water is still perfectly safe to drink.

Q: What is ‘hard’ water?

Hardness in drinking water is caused mainly by two minerals containing calcium and magnesium.  These are common, naturally occurring elements in water.  The water is said to be ‘hard’ because it is more difficult to make a lather or suds for washing.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines indicate that 200mg/L of hardness (as CaCO3) is the aesthetic limit of water hardness. Anything over that level becomes increasingly unappealing to the senses.

Here is a breakdown of degrees of water hardness:

<60mg/L CaCO3Soft but possibly corrosive
60-200mg/L CaCO3Good quality
200-500mg/L CaCO3Increasing scaling problems
>500mg/L CaCO3Severe scaling

If you have noticed limescale build-up and are concerned about your water hardness, a test will reveal the extent of the problem. After conducting your water hardness test, consult a suitably qualified technician to learn more about water softeners and conditioners.

Q: I have noticed black greasy particles in the water. What could they be?

Water lab 1

We have had clients complain of black particles in their water, which turned out to be degraded rubber hose particles from braided flexible hose in the kitchen or bathroom.
If there was a real black particle contamination problem in the water supply, it would be experienced over a wider area. Ask your neighbours if they are experiencing the same problem. Widespread incidence of black particles may indicate some scale or corrosion coming off the mains.

If you are unsure, follow the process to get your water tested.

Other questions

If your question has not been answered on our website please fill in our online enquiry  form.

We will get back to you as soon as we can.