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Testing bore water quality

Bore water should be tested and deemed safe before being used for drinking, cooking, use in swimming pools or watering edible plants such as home grown vegetables.

Testing varies between private bores and commercial or community-based bores however all bores need to have microbiological (E. coli) and chemical quality testing prior to use.

Undertaking testing

All testing of the water samples from a private and commercial or community-based bore should be done by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited analytical laboratory. Contact details for the laboratories can be found under “Analysts” in Yellow Pages®. Advice should always be sought from the laboratory regarding the appropriate way to collect a sample.

If at any stage there are changes in appearance or odour, immediate water quality testing is advised.

Refer below for more information on what is tested and the frequency of testing for both private bores and commercial or community-based bores.

Interpretation of results

The laboratory usually will provide a certificate of results, listing the concentrations of microbes and chemicals found. Contact SA Health’s Scientific Services for assistance with interpretation of your test results.

Chemical results

The results of the analysis of water intended for human consumption are compared to the Australian Drinking Water Guideline values. Some chemical parameters however, may not be regulated by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Microbial results

The detection of E. coli, an indicator of microbial contamination shows that maintenance and/or treatment is inadequate and requires immediate investigation. E. coli should not be detected in a minimum 100 mL sample of drinking water.

An alternative source of water should be used for drinking and food preparation or the bore water should be boiled prior to use. Should you wish to use contaminated water for other domestic purposes contact SA Health’s Scientific Services for assistance.

Failed test results

Finding a solution for bores that have failed chemical or microbial testing needs to be done on a case by case basis. The remedy, if possible, will depend upon the levels of contaminates found, the cause of contamination, and the intended use of the water.

If the water fails a chemical test, alternative water supplies are recommended and the results discussed with SA Health’s Scientific Services. Note that boiling water cannot remove chemicals.

If the microbiological test fails, alternative water supplies should be used for drinking and food preparation or the bore water should be boiled prior to use.

Testing requirements

Private bores

Both microbiological and chemical quality tests need to occur prior to use, particularly where the previous history of the bore is unknown. If at any stage there are changes in appearance or odour, further water quality testing is advised.

Bore water intended for drinking, cooking, use in swimming pools or watering edible plants should undergo a phase one test, and if applicable a phase two test.

Phase one testing

Phase one looks at the following parameters:

  • E. coli (as an indicator of faecal contamination)
  • Fluoride
  • Nitrate
  • Arsenic

Phase two testing

Phase two testing is to be conducted if phase one testing results are satisfactory. Phase two testing looks at the following metals:

  • antimony
  • barium
  • beryllium
  • boron
  • cadmium
  • chromium
  • copper
  • lead
  • managnese
  • mercury
  • molybdenum
  • nickel
  • selenium
  • silver
  • uranium.

For urban bores, phase two testing should also include analysis of volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene commonly found in parts  of Adelaide. The presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is not widespread. However, testing will be required in areas identified as at risk. Contact the Water Quality Unit at SA Health on (08) 8226 7100 for further advice.

Commercial or community-based bores

Bore water that is supplied to the public for drinking (Including food preparation) is subject to the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. See the Providing Safe drinking water webpage for further information.

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