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Water Testing

Testing your drinking water in Alberta

What types of water samples will be tested?

Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health (EPH) will only test water samples that:

  • come from a water supply people use for drinking (for example, your well water), and
  • do not come from city or town water supplies

What other conditions does the sample need to meet?

You must get the sample:

  • using the approved sampling bottle
  • from the cold water supply line
  • before any type of water treatment (for example, water softener, iron filter, reverse osmosis, water distiller, carbon filter, point-of-use filter)

You also need to fill out a requisition form and include it with the water sample.

What types of water samples won’t be tested?

EPH won’t test water samples for:

  • real estate matters
  • research
  • farming (agricultural) purposes
  • business reasons

You need to send these types of water samples to a commercial lab and pay for the testing.

EPH will also not test water from town or city (municipal) water sources. Towns and cities (municipalities) test their water regularly for safety. You can see the newest reports on water test results for your town or city on the Alberta Environment and Parks website. Contact your municipal office for any other drinking water test results.

What are the types of water supply tests?


Tests What is this test? How often should I test?
BacteriaThis test looks for 2 types of harmful bacteria (total coliform and E. coli) to make sure water is safe to drink.Test 2 times a year.
Chemicals and trace metalsThis test looks for common chemicals and trace metals found in water to make sure it’s safe to drink.Test every 2 to 5 years. (Contact a public health inspector if you would like to test more often).

Where can I get a water sample bottle and drop off a sample?

Go to Sample Your Water on the Alberta Health Services website. Under “Water Sample Bottle Pick up & Drop off Locations” you can find out:

  • where to get water sample bottles
  • when and where to drop off water samples

How do I take a water sample?

The sample bottle comes with instructions for how to take a water sample. Follow these instructions carefully. This will make sure you fill out the requisition form correctly and that your water sample is not contaminated (this is when other germs get into your water sample, which could change the test results).

How can I make sure my water sample is not contaminated?

To make sure your water sample does not get contaminated with other germs when you’re collecting the sample, do not:

  • open the sample bottle until you’re ready to collect your sample
  • rinse the sample bottle
  • let water overflow or splash down the side of the bottle
  • put the bottle cap on a countertop (it can get contaminated)
  • touch the inside of the cap, mouth, or neck of the bottle
  • collect samples from a garden hose, outside tap, or other places that might be dirty

What is important to know about testing for bacteria?

When testing for bacteria, the sample needs to be as fresh as possible. Collect the water sample, put it in a cooler filled with ice packs, and take it to the drop-off location right away. This is important because if the water sample is more than 24 hours old, EPH will not test it.

How do I find out the test results?

EPH will mail the results to the address you give on the requisition form. If the results show that your water might not be safe, a public health inspector will call you. Make sure the daytime phone number you put on the requisition form is the best number to reach you.

When will I get the results?

  • Bacteria test: It takes 2 to 3 days for the water sample to get tested. Then the results will be mailed to you.
  • Chemical test: It takes 6 to 8 weeks for the water sample to get tested. Then the results will be mailed to you.

How do I find out my well ID and well depth?

The requisition form asks for your well ID and well depth. There are a few ways to get this information:

What should I do if I think my drinking water is not safe?

If you think your drinking water is not safe:

  1. Don’t use it (use bottled water instead) until testing shows that your water is safe.
  2. Contact Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health.

Current as of: February 5, 2020

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services