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  #1  
Old 05-21-2020, 05:45 PM
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Default Inexpensive water testing

I have been wondering what my water is like quality wise, but I haven't gotten hold of a way to test it yet. Does anyone know of an easy way to test it? Preferably as cheaply as possible (or using basic equipment that is easy to get a hold of [I was thinking of using an electrical multi-tester to test electrical conductivity for example]). Because I keep spending all my cash on orchids .
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Old 05-21-2020, 06:52 PM
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A TDS (actually EC) meter is very handy, also a pH meter (or paper test strips) For the actual constituents, your water supplier should be able to provide an analysis. (Those tend to have really wide ranges, limiting the usefulness, but combined with a TDS reading and pH, can give you at least a hint of what you're working with.) Where the TDS (EC) reading fits into the picture is that it helps to see where in the range of reported constituents you are at a particular time (since there are likely to be seasonal changes) For instance, at my house the TDS can range from about 180 ppm to 400 ppm. Which is all over the map. But the analysis does tell me that there isn't a lot of sodium, not a lot of sulfate, that the major contributor to the TDS is calcium bicarbonate. So how much of it I have at any particular time is variable, but I know that's the main animal that I deal with (a reason for pH being stubbornly about 7.8... calcium bicarbonate is a powerful buffer)
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  #3  
Old 05-21-2020, 07:23 PM
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Aha, I just found a TDS/EC meter that is quite cheap and has good reviews, I think I will buy it and see what my water is like!
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:11 PM
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Afid...and do first start with your local water supplier's yearly tests. It gives a good balance point to go forth with the finer tune.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:13 PM
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Yeah, I am on well water so I don't have yearly records, but I should be able to dig up records from an old test from when we first moved in.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:16 PM
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Figured you might say that from your present locale. Carry on!
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:06 AM
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Why not send a sample off to a lab (J R Peters - $40), so you'll have an accurate baseline to work with?

Be wary of "cheap" TDS meters, as they are really just cheap EC meters with a built-in "standard conversion" to TDS. EC should be OK if it's calibrated, but the conversion from EC to TDS varies with the chemistry of the solution being tested.

For example, comparing 100 ppm N solutions of MSU WW, MSU RO, and K-Lite:



Note that the EC (row 7) of the MSURO and K-Lite are 17.6% and 4.4% higher than that of the MSUWW, respectively, which - if there was a "standard" conversion from EC to TDS - would suggest that the TDS values would also differ by that much. In reality, however the true TDS values (row 9) are 46.2% and 46.6% higher, respectively.

<<Added later>>>

I had two TDS meters that I tested the 100 ppm N MSU RO solution. One told me the TDS was about 380 ppm, while the other said about 475 (versus the true value of 769).
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:43 PM
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In the United States, nearly all states have "County Agents". These are professionals in agriculture, nearly always supported by state, federal (USDA), and local governments, and universities. In my state (Georgia), these professionals are associated with the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Georgia.

Through these agents and their offices, you can usually have water testing performed for low cost (assuming you are on a private water supply; no need to do this if you are on a public water supply, the water utility is required by law to test, and by law, must make the data available to the public).
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:50 PM
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Thanks to everyone for all the help!!
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  #10  
Old 05-23-2020, 03:20 PM
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MSU recommends testing private well water every year. Here's a link to their website, it also includes a list of labs.

Testing My Well - MSU Extension Water Quality | Montana State University

My Arizona county recommends the same--common contaminants here are coliform bacteria and arsenic! Might be nice to know, not just for the orchids...
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