Water Sample Collection (refer to "Fees" for price list)

Which water test do I need?

Water used for domestic purposes has three major determinants of suitability - physical, chemical and biological qualities. 

The physical attributes can include colour, turbidity (suspended particles), taste, temperature. which affect the aesthetics of the water.   Clear, clean, cool water is highly desirable. Many of the physical attributes of any water relate to its source, collection and storage.

The chemistry of the water is related to geology and likely inputs from natural and human developments.  For example, hardness is related to calcium and magnesium salts, mostly derived from dissolved rocks.  However, contamination by organic compounds such as herbicides and pesticides reflects poor management by the user of these chemicals.

Biological contamination is related to bacteria, viruses and parasites entering the water.  Water can be contaminated by bacteria and viruses from the faeces of warm blooded animals or from decaying remains of animals. Parasites may often be present (Cryptosporidium, Giardia), but are difficult to collect and correctly identify. Viruses are very expensive to isolate and identify- that's why virus testing is not done on a regular basis.

On the farm, around the home or at work, water contaminated by animal sources (including humans) usually occurs from faecal contamination, from the geology of the catchment or groundwater aquifer, or from surface activities.

Thus, the choice of water testing depends upon the history of the water resource and the proposed use of the water.  The tests of irrigation water are different from those required for water for human consumption.   Some tests are very expensive and only warranted where there is a suspicion that contamination has occurred.

While there area Australian Guidelines for Drinking Water, these guidelines cover the whole spectrum of water sources and uses.  It is common practice to test only those parameters which affect the quality of the particular resource and its proposed use.


Below are the choices offered to clients:

1.   Basic water test:  for physical and chemical properties for water used for domestic purposes but not for drinking/cooking water.  This test also satisfies the requirements for irrigation water. (click here for water sampling brochure)

2.  Faecal Coliform Test:  to determine whether the sample has been contaminated by faecal matter from warm blooded animals.  A leaking septic tank may be suspected of causing a foul taste in the water - the FC test will quickly show whether or not the cause is the septic tank. This test should be performed on all surface waters used for drinking. (click here for bacteria testing brochure)

3.  Specialised tests:  the type of tests required are specific to the proposed use of the water, or where contamination from specific sources are required. Pesticide, herbicide, fuels:  these tests target suspected sources.

4.  Trade waste analysis:  see under "Effluent"

Basic water test

The basic water test determines the following parameters;

pH, alkalinity, electrical conductivity, total dissolved solids, salinity, chloride, cations (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium), sodium adsorption ratio, soluble phosphorus, nitrate, copper, iron, manganese, hardness, sulphate.

Additional tests are available.  

For cost of analysis, check current prices under FEES   (double click here)

Water Sampling Method

The protocols for taking water samples are similar to those described below for faecal coliforms, except that one litre (1 L) sample is required and the bottle must be filled to the very top to exclude all air.  Only samples in bottles supplied by Lanfax Labs will be accepted.  Samples presented in re-used plastic drinking water bottles will only be accepted where the water is tested for its chemistry, and not for bacterial contamination. Check with the lab staff before taking a sample.  Sterile sample containers for bacteriological samples, and plastic bottles for chemical analysis will be dispatched upon request.

Faecal coliform test

It is expensive to test for all bacteria which are likely to make humans and/or animals sick. Because bacteria grow in colonies, the faecal coliform test accounts for the heat-tolerant bacterial colonies incubated at 44.5oC over 24 hours. Escherichia coli (E.coli) are more specific to the gut of warm-blooded mammals and are determined at 35oC. The bacterial contamination test assesses both faecal coliforms and E.coli together with total coliforms.

Faecal coliform are used to indicate the likely risk of water being contaminated, all drinking water samples should have a nil count per 100 mL sample. However, a "nil count" result does not necessarily mean that the water is not contaminated, it only indicates the condition of the water sample at the time of sampling.

Sources of Contamination

Septic tanks and drainfields leaking into wells, bores and surface streams is a common cause of water contamination. Dead animals in the water supply, runoff containing faeces (manures) entering the well or draining into the bore may also cause contamination. There's considerable bacterial colonisation on our skin, so any contact with the water may contaminate it. 


Your hands, clothing and other objects may be contaminated by bacteria. DO NOT place fingers into the water sample bottle and DO NOT allow the lip of the bottle to touch the tap while you are filling it.

SAMPLING METHODS   (Click here for Procedures for Water Sample Collection)

Groundwater Sampling Method:  Bacteria testing
(from tank, bore, well or spring)

Obtain a 250 mL sterile container from Lanfax Laboratories (no other container will be accepted)

Open the tap from which you will obtain the sample, allow the water to run for several minutes until the water
coming from the tap is a true sample of the groundwater, rather than the water that has been standing in the pipes.

Open the container immediately prior to filling, do not touch any part of the inside of the container or the lid.

Fill the container to a level just above the top rim (container does not need to be full).

Securely cap the container and label with:

Name of owner 
Source of water (tank, bore, spring, dam) 
Date and time of sampling

Note: Be careful that water leaking around the tap does not wash over the tap and transfer bacteria from the tap
into the container.

Time limit  for sample storage (including transport)

The sample must to be returned to Lanfax Laboratories within 30 minutes of sampling or immediately packed
in ice for periods not exceeding 6 hours. Samples more than 24 hours old are of no value.

The faecal coliform test requires incubation for 24 hours, so sample results will be available within 36 hours f
rom time of delivery.

Surface Water Sampling Method: 
(for dam, creek or other stored water)

Sample  directly into the container, not from another container into the sterile one. Do not rinse the container in the water to be sampled.

Uncap the 250 mL container, do not touch the inside of the container or the lid.

Hold the uncapped container firmly, hands away from the lip, quickly dunk the container under the surface of the water with the lip of the bottle facing downwards and upstream (avoid the surface scum), fill the bottle and quickly remove from water body. 

Tip out a small quantity (fill to just above the top rim), cap securely.

Label with:

Name of owner ..................Location ........................ 

Source of water (tank, bore, spring, dam)........................ 

Date and time of sampling ......................................

The sample must be dispatched as a chilled sample and be received by Lanfax Laboratories within 6 hours of sampling.

NOTE: Where animals are allowed free access to water resources, or where runoff from pasture enters the water body, it is most probable that the water will return a positive faecal coliform test. You should consider whether to proceed or not with the test and, importantly, what is your intended use of the water.

Specialised Tests

Other tests are available for special requirements, whether water contaminated by pesticides, herbicides, arsenic, or cadmium.  Often tests are required for specialised research or irrigation purposes.

Contact Lab staff to discuss special requirements that you may have.  Check under FEES to see the cost of additional tests.  Other prices are available on request.

Check the sampling method before you take the sample, as some tests require glass bottles, partly filled bottles or special treatment with chemical stabilisers.

Treating contaminated water

Disinfection by chlorination

Contaminated water is difficult to treat. Viruses and bacteria pass through water filters, even very fine filters. Many parasites may be removed effectively by filtration, but filters also act as breeding grounds for many microbes and may themselves be some of the causes of foul tastes.

Chlorine may be added at the rate of 10 mg L-1 to water with a pH 6.5 to 7.5 and out of the direct sunlight. As various chlorine compounds are available, mostly as swimming pool chemicals, the following list gives an indication of the dose required for treating water for stock.

sodium hypochlorite (10%) liquid 100 mL per 1000 L
bleaching powder (30%) powder 40 g per 1000 L
calcium hypochlorite (70%) powder or tablets 18 g per 1000 L

A swimming pool chlorine test kit is suitable to measure the chlorine dose.

A residual level of 0.1 mg L-1 should remain two hours after treatment.

Where the water is to be used for human consumption, do not use swimming pool chemicals as these chemicals contain stabilising chemicals that are poisonous in drinking water. Boiling (a rolling boil) provides an easier means of disinfection for small volumes of drinking water.

Prevention of contamination is the preferred approach and domestic water supplies should be protected from contamination from all sources.

A suitable government document can be downloaded from "NSW Private Water Supply Guidelines"  (use Google search engine)

Odour and Taste

Carbon filters are efficient at removing odour and taste from drinking water.  Special filter cartridges can be fitted to kitchen taps and the  filter will remove most of the odour, taste and some heavy metals.  Such filters should be treated with respect and changed on a regular basis depending upon the quality of the water.  It is uneconomic to treat all the water entering the home for taste and odour, just treat the drinking water.

Most of the taste and odour in domestic supplies has an identifiable cause.  It makes great sense to treat the cause rather than treat the symptom.