Water Sampling: know your water…

Wendy Gill, Senior Land Service Officer – Mixed Farming

Knowing your water is critical for understanding what limitations it will have and how it will perform for your cropping plants, soils or animal livestock enterprises, farm equipment and general use.

Water quality can broadly be described as its fitness for it’s end use for example maintenance of livestock production, plant production and use in irrigation and household use. Water quality can vary at different times of the year and from different sources including from dams, bores, wells, river and creek systems and it is not always static!

Attributes of water can be both chemical & physical (e.g algae). These chemical factors can be examined in a variety of tests to determine waters quality:

  • Salinity
  • pH
  • Chloride levels
  • Alkalinity
  • Turbidity
  • Hardness
  • Saturation Index
  • Sodium Absorption ratio
  • Elements including minerals and other compounds such as aluminium, boron, calcium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, potassium, molybdenum, sodium, nickel, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, sulfur  and zinc.
  • Ammonium, nitrate, nitrate & phosphate
  • Total Nitrogen & Total Phosphorus

There are a number of laboratories that can assist producers and general community members to test your water. The department of Primary Industries laboratory offers water quality testing facilities in NSW. Depending on the type of test you require; this will determine the type of water test kit you need.

When arranging to test your water; make sure you follow these seven steps:

  1. Choose the right test kit type for that suit the end use of water; this will allow you to test for the appropriate water quality attributes.
  2. Read the attached instructions in each test kit.
  3. Use the right container.  Test bottles for human consumption/ microbiological tests have a expiry date as they contain a Chlorine Neutraliser in the sample container. Therefore it is important to ensure you use an in date test kit for your samples.
  4. Collect an accurate sample (see below).
  5. Store samples correctly.
  6. Get samples to the Laboratory within the time frames required for example water being tested for domestic and general use needs to be delivered to the laboratory within 24 hrs of sampling.
  7. Use an accredited laboratory.

If you suspect Blue green Algae in your water - there is a separate testing procedure for this specific water test. To discuss Blue Green Algae signs or tests; talk to your local Local Land Services District Veterinarian or Ag staff team member for further information.

Here is important information to remember when you are going to test your water; which will make sure you get an accurate sample and that the type of test your require can be completed when it gets to the laboratories. It will make the simple process of water testing worthwhile.

How to collect your samples:

Selecting where to collect your sample from to get a good quality sample depends on the type of water source you are testing:

For Dams; Do not take the sample from the edge where possible, try take the sample as far away from the edge and ideally as close as possible to where your pumping system draws water from. If you cannot access this area easily, a water sample may be taken from the first inlet along the pump line as well.

For Creeks & Rivers; the best sample is taken from where there is constant water flow and movement. Avoid taking samples form non-moving or back water areas.

For Bores; allow the water to flow for a period of time to ensure all standing water is removed from the length of the pipe before sampling for bores that have been in use.

If testing new bores, allow enough time to run the bore so that the flow can become stable and new water moves into the suction zone and becomes available for your sample. As new bores take time to settle; your bore driller may be able to advise on the time it will take for your bore to settle before testing can be completed.

To arrange a water test kit please talk to your Local Land service office or for further information please contact your District Veterinarian and Ag staff team members at Central West Local Land Services.

For further information and resources;

DPI Primfact 326 Third Edition June 2014 - Water requirement for sheep and Cattle

DPI Prime Fact 1506 Third Edition May 2017 – Farm water quality and treatment: Algae

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland

DPI Diagnostic & Analytical Services, Wollongbar


Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.

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