Drinking Water Testing

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Our laboratory is certified by the state to test drinking water. We offer water testing for homeowners, renters, and public water utilities.

When to Test Your Water

Recommendations for testing vary depending on;

  • the source of your water (private well or municipal water),
  • age of your home, and
  • who lives in your household.  

Private Well Owners

  • You should test your water each year for bacteria and nitrate/nitrite. Test sooner if there has been flooding in the area or if you notice changes in taste, odor, or appearance of the water. 
  • It is very important to test for nitrate in households with pregnant people, infants, and young children. Nitrate can reduce the blood's ability to carry oxygen. In infants it can cause a serious condition called "blue baby syndrome."
  • The age and type of plumbing may indicate a need for additional testing to check for lead and other metals. While lead is less of an issue in private wells, it can be found in some pumps or valves used in private wells.
  • Tests for Drinking Water from Private Wells WI Dept. of Natural Resources
  • If you're in an area near PFAS contamination, it's recommended that you test your well for PFAS.

Private Well Testing for PFAS

PFAS can affect your health. If you live in Dane County, we can test your well.

We offer free private well testing for PFAS for income-eligible households in Dane County, living outside the City of Madison (households in City of Madison are not eligible). Free testing is available while funding lasts, or through June 2024. We use guidelines under the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Program to determine income eligibility. You can print an application form and follow instructions for returning it to us. Once your application has been approved, someone will contact you to schedule an appointment. 

Income Eligibility Guidelines:
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Annual Income
(from 2022 tax return)

Households who exceed the income limit, or are in the City of Madison are able to order sampling kits at the normal cost of $418. You can order a sampling kit by emailing us at lab@publichealthmdc.com.

If you need help understanding your test results, please contact us at lab@publichealthmdc.com, even if you didn't get your well tested through us. 

Municipal Water Customers

If you pay a water bill, you have water that comes from a municipal water utility. The water utility tests the water regularly and makes sure that you have safe drinking water. Most utilities in Dane County also test for PFAS. By the end of 2023, they will be required to do so. Contact your municipality for information. 

  • You can test for water quality problems that may come from your plumbing, like lead, copper, manganese or bacterial contamination.
  • You should test for lead if:
    • You have lead piping or solder
    • The system that brings water to where you live has lead piping or solder
    • You have galvanized steel pipes
  • We can help figure out if you have lead pipes. Call us at (608) 242-6515. This website can also help you find out. Lead levels may vary widely throughout the home so don’t rely on just one good test.
  • Water can look cloudy or discolored when water mains are flushed for cleaning and maintenance. The water should clear up after running for a few minutes. It does not usually mean testing is needed. If the water does not become clear, call your local water utility.

Other Water Testing

We test more than just drinking water. We can test area lakes, streams, and rivers for indicators of environmental conditions.

Testing Process

  1. Decide which tests

    Different test options require different kits. We can help you figure out what tests or packages to order. Email lab@publichealthmdc.com or call us at (608) 243-0357. We will discuss the types of tests you need based on your situation and their cost. 

     If you already know what tests you want to order, go to step 2.

  2. Get a Test Kit

    • All testing requires the use of a Public Health Madison & Dane County water testing kit.
    • Depending on what type of testing you want, you might need more than one kit.
    • Water test kits must be ordered in advance! You can pick them up at our office, or we can mail them to you for a $5 fee.

    Pick Up Test Kits

    • You can pick up a test kit from 8:00am – 4:15pm Monday through Friday if you have ordered it in advance.
    • Hours vary around holidays; before sampling, call (608) 243-0357.
    • Location: The Atrium, 2300 S. Park St., Suite 2010, Madison
  3. Collect a Water Sample

    • Collect the sample right before you bring it to our office.
      • Drop off hours are Monday through Wednesday, 8:00am - 1:00pm only. 
    • Review the instructions that come with your test kit.
    • Instructions will vary based on the type of test. It is important to follow them to get accurate results.
    • Call us at (608) 243-0357 if you have questions on how to sample.
  4. Return Sample to Us

    • Complete the information requested on the test kit bottle and form in your test kit.
    • Bring your payment. We accept exact cash or a check made out to City of Madison Treasurer.
    • Test kits can't be mailed and must be dropped off in person.
    • Drop off hours: 8:00am - 1:00pm Monday through Wednesday only.
    • Location: The Atrium, 2300 S. Park St., Suite 2010, Madison
  5. Get Results!

    • You can get your results by email or mail.
    • Results are usually available in ten to fifteen business days after we get your sample. Rush orders (results in 5 business days) might be available. Call us about availability and fee before mailing or dropping off samples.    
    • If your test result shows the water is unsafe for drinking, we will give you information on what to do next. We are happy to talk to you about your results. Call us at (608) 243-0357.


Free Drinking Water Testing For Those who Qualify

If a pregnant person or baby under 6 months lives in your home and you have financial need, water testing of your private well is available for free. This uses a different testing kit and lab than the process above. For PFAS testing, see information above under "Private Well Testing for PFAS."

Please call (608) 242-6515 to find out if you qualify for free testing. You can also visit our office at 2300 S. Park St. Suite 2010.

If you do not qualify for free water testing, you must follow the process above and pay the fees.

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