Drinking Water Testing
Our Laboratory is certified by the State to test recreational and drinking water for bacteria, metals, nutrients, and other chemicals. We offer water testing for individuals (homeowners/renters) and public water utilities.
When to Test Your Water
Recommendations for testing vary depending on the source of your water (private well or municipal water), age of your home, and who lives in your household.
Private Well Owners
It is recommended that private well owners test annually for bacteria and nitrate/nitrite. Testing is recommended sooner if there has been flooding in the area or if any changes in taste, odor, or appearance of the water are noticed.
- Nitrate is very important to test for in households with pregnant women, infants, and young children. Nitrate can reduce the blood's ability to carry oxygen, and in infants can cause a serious condition called "blue baby syndrome."
- The age and type of plumbing may indicate a need for additional testing to check for lead and other metals. While lead is less of an issue in private wells, lead can be found in some pumps or valves used in private wells.
- Tests for Drinking Water from Private Wells WI Dept. of Natural Resources
Municipal Water Customers
If you pay a water bill, you have water that comes from a municipal water utility. The water utility tests the water regularly and assures that you have good drinking water.
- Municipal water customers may want to test for water quality problems that may come from the home plumbing such as lead, copper, manganese or bacterial contamination.
- Test drinking water for lead if you know there is lead piping or solder where you live or in the system that brings water to where you live. Galvanized steel pipes can also add lead to the water. For guidance on how to find out whether you have lead pipes or not, call our office at (608) 242-6515 or check out this guidance from National Public Radio (NPR). Lead levels may vary widely so one good test may not be the final answer.
- When water is temporarily cloudy or discolored, it may be due to flushing of water mains which is part of normal cleaning and maintenance. The cloudiness and discoloration should clear up after a few minutes of running the water and does not usually mean a need for testing. If the water does not become clear, call your local water utility.
Other Water Testing
Our water testing services go beyond testing drinking water. We can test area lakes, streams, and rivers for indicators of environmental conditions.
Call for a Consultation
Different tests require different sample collection test kits. This is why it is important to call our lab first at (608) 243-0357 to discuss the types of tests you need based on your situation and their cost.
Get a Test Kit
- All testing requires the use of a sample test kit.
- Depending on what type of testing you desire, you might need multiple sample test kits.
- Test kits can be picked up at our Laboratory office or our Environmental Health office, or arrangements can be made with our lab to mail a kit to you.
Testing Kit Pick Up and Drop Off Locations
- Pick-up times are listed below. We will discuss drop off location and time when you pick up your kit.
- Hours vary around holidays; before sampling, call (608) 243-0357.
Public Health Laboratory
8:00 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday
City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Room 507, Madison
Environmental Health Office
8:00 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday
2300 S. Park St., Suite 2022, Madison
Collect a Water Sample
- Review sampling instructions that come with your test kit.
- Instructions will vary based on the type of test and it is important to follow them to get accurate results.
- Collect the sample just before you will be returning it to our office.
Return Sample to Us
- Complete the information requested on the test kit bottle and form that is provided.
- Bring payment in the form of cash or check made out to City Treasurer.
- You can choose to receive your results by email or mail.
- Results usually take two weeks to process. If needed sooner, ask about availability and fees for a rush order.
- If we see a concerning test result, we will provide additional information about the contaminant.
- To discuss results, call our lab at (608) 243-0357.
- Fees vary based on tests performed.
- PHMDC Laboratory Testing Options and Fees
Fee Exempt Drinking Water Testing
If you have well water and are unable to afford testing, the State Lab of Hygiene provides free water testing if a pregnant woman or a new child lives in the home. The process varies slightly from the process above and uses different testing kits so please call (608) 242-6515 for more information or visit our Environmental Health Office.