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Protecting Alaska's Cook Inlet watershed and the life it sustains since 1995.
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Water Testing FAQ

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about testing your drinking water. Feel free to contact Inletkeeper if your question is not answered here.

Why should I have my well water tested?
Where do contaminants come from?
Will Cook Inletkeeper test my well water?
How do I get my water tested?
How much does well water testing cost?
How do I interpret my well water test results?
What do I do if I have contaminants in my water?
What about cisterns and catchment systems?
Where can I find out about the quality of the public water?
Where can I learn more?


Why should I have my well water tested?
Contaminants in drinking water may cause chronic (i.e. long term) health effects as a result of digesting small doses over a period of time. High levels of contaminants can also pose acute (short term) health effects. Pregnant women, babies and young children may be more vulnerable to certain drinking water contaminants. In addition to risks posed by consumption, showering and other uses can pose health risks with certain contaminants. For more information on human health concerns, click here.

Will Cook Inletkeeper test my well water?
No—but we can provide you with information on how to get your well water tested by a state-certified water quality laboratory (see the next question for more information). We encourage working with a certified lab for water testing, especially if you have never had your water tested before.

How do I get my water tested?
Our website includes a link to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s list of certified laboratories. Depending on where you live and what you need tested, there may be several options. Calling each potential lab will help you to find out who will best fit your needs.

How frequently and under what circumstances should I test my well water?
It is recommended to test your well water annually for bacteria and nitrates, preferably each spring. It is also a good idea to test your well water after flooding or when you experience any noticeable change in water color, taste or smell. In addition, you should test your well water when changes or repairs are made to your well or water system, when activating a well or water system that has not been used in a long time and when land uses change in the vicinity of you well.

How much does well water testing cost?
There are several certified laboratories in Alaska. Prices for tests that cover basic health concerns (bacteria, nitrates & arsenic) can start at around $150. Testing bacteria alone is often around $50. You will need to call the lab to find out more specifics.

How do I interpret my well water test results?
Click here for a demo of what the lab test results looks like, and for a step-by-step explanation of what it all means. There is also a chart that lists what the hazardous levels of each contaminant are and what treatment is suggested.

Where do contaminants come from?
Some contaminants occur naturally, while others flow from human activities. For example, arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant that poses significant health risks. On the other hand, human activities – such as leaks, spills, land use changes, septic systems, landfills, fertilizers/pesticides, sewage, animal waste, fuel storage tanks, etc. – can produce contaminants that enter aquifers and groundwater. For more details on specific types of contaminants, click here.

What do I do if I have contaminants in my water?
Click here to obtain information on a number of different sources explaining treatment options for specific contaminants. For a list of local water treatment businesses, click here.

What about springs, cisterns and rain catchment systems?

Some resources include:

Montana Standards for Development of Springs for Individual and Shared Non-Public Systems (2002)

Penn State Spring Development and Protection

Penn State Rainwater Cisterns: Design, Construction, and Water Treatment

Where can I find out about the quality of a public water source?
There are hundreds of public water systems throughout the communities of Cook Inlet. In Alaska, the Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) oversees public water systems throughout the state. All public water systems are required to test their water for contaminants, including bacteria and metals such as arsenic. Public water sources that serve at least 25 year-round residents are required to publish a water quality report annually, which can be requested by contacting the utility, city, or tribe. Links to ADEC pages for public water systems in Cook Inlet communities can be found here.

More Frequently Asked Questions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Environmental Protection Agency