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How to Read A Water Analysis

How to Read A Water Analysis

How to: Reading A Water Analysis

You want to make sure you’re investing in the right water filtration system for your family so you’ve had a water analysis done but how do you read this thing? What should you be looking for? Which columns or lines on the report are most important? I’m going to explain what you need to know for you family, starting right now.


What is a Water Analysis?  

Free Water Test and Analysis

A water analysis can be basic, like the free water analysis we offer for our customers or very detailed like the ones generated by a licensed laboratory. If you’re experiencing hard water from a municipal water supply or hard water and iron staining from well water a basic test is likely all you need. If you want a full test of your well water to make sure there aren’t other concerns a licensed lab well water analysis gives you far more information but how do you read the thing?


How to Read a Water Analysis

In order to fully understand the details on a water analysis you will have to know where to look and then know what information is being displayed for various reasons. Before you do anything else, if your water is from a well or surface water check to see if there is any bacteria in your water. That needs to be addressed! Next check the headings across the top for one called MAC which stands for Maximum Acceptable Concentration. Usually beside it you’ll see AO/OG which means Aesthetic Objective and somewhere Results.

Below is a breakdown indicating the columns and lines that will matter most in understanding your water analysis report. 

MAC - Maximum Allowable Concentration: this column tells you what levels your water sample cannot exceed. If your water exceeds this limit, your water isn’t safe to drink.

AO - Aesthetic Objective or Guideline: some contaminants aren't dangerous but due to undesirable characteristics of taste, colour, or odour in the water you need to be aware that if you exceed these levels your family won’t be happy with your water and it will cause damage.

Results: This column can sometimes be difficult to find as it can be given a variety of different names depending on the lab used. Most often it will be called 'results' but you may find it under another heading. So, if you’re not sure, just ask the lab.

Units: the units can be confusing and may not be in the form you need them to be. For example, hardness is often shown as parts per million (mg/L or ppm) but if you are using this information to size a water softener, you’ll want to divide the ppm number by 17 to get the result in grains per gallon. The same goes for iron content, you’ll need to know the amount in ppm. If your test gives you the result in ug/L or ppb you’ll convert it to mg/L or ppm by dividing it by 1000.


Next Steps after Receiving Water Test Results 

Once you receive your test results, you’ll need to:

1. Print the report and highlight any results that are higher than their MAC or AO

2. Highlight the Total Hardness, Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), TDS and pH if they are not highlighted from step one.

3. If your levels exceed the following, you’ll definitely want to address them: Hardness – over 170 ppm or 10 gpg, Iron – over .3 ppm, manganese of .02 ppm, TDS over 500 and pH outside of 6.5-8.0. A great on line tool that I’ve come across is this one from the Government of Alberta to help you sort out your water test results. Check out their Rural Water Quality Information Tool here.


Still unclear on How to Read a Water Analysis?

If you’re still unclear on how to interpret your water analysis, just email it to me at and I’ll help you to determine what type of water filtration you need for your family. If you’re looking for a free basic water analysis just mail your sample to: Water Store, 1004 King Street, Midland, Ontario L4R0B8

Either way, understanding what’s involved and planning ahead of time will make sure you get what you need to fix your water the first time and save your family money!