With the ice and snow finally melting and spring making its presence known all around the region, it’s time for Muskoka cottagers and homeowners to have their water tested. Cottage owners whose water is drawn from the lake or a private well should be regularly testing their drinking water to ensure that it’s safe to continue using. These water sources can be contaminated by a wide variety of things, and so having it tested regularly can prevent you, your family and your friends from accidentally drinking contaminated water.

Why you should be testing your water
No contaminated water is ever safe to drink, making it crucial that your water gets tested on a regular basis, especially when drawn from a lake or private well. This applies to a great deal of the area’s home and cottage owners, many of whom draw water from Muskoka’s lakes or private wells. Even if the water in question is only used for swimming and other recreational activities, it’s important that it gets tested.

Any body of water, whether a natural lake or a privately dug well, can be contaminated by humans, animals, and other sources including blue/green algae, naturally occurring chemicals and minerals like trihalomethanes (THM), arsenic, lead, uranium, and sodium, or water-borne illnesses and pathogens like E.coli, cryptosporidium and giardia, making it very important to make a habit of testing your drinking water.

This is especially true if it doesn’t come from a municipal water system, if you haven’t tested it in a while (or ever), or if you’ve recently noticed a change in smell, taste or appearance. Drinking contaminated water can lead to a wide variety of serious health problems and should be avoided at all costs. Water testing can identify contaminants, allowing you to directly address any problems before they can affect you or those closest to you.

How to test your drinking water
Testing your water is easier now than ever before thanks to Ontario’s push to have home and cottage owners test their private water sources often. If you draw water from a private well or other private drinking water system, you can have your water tested free of charge by the Ontario Public Health Laboratory. 

All you have to do is pick up a sampling kit from your local District Health Unit location and take a sample of your drinking water by collecting it in the provided sterilized bottle, and drop it off with the Health Unit. From there, an inspector will analyze your results and offer advice on how you should proceed with fixing any existing issues.

These free services cover bacterial contamination, but Public Health Ontario doesn’t cover chemical or other contaminants, meaning you may have to consult a private licensed laboratory in order to fully test your private drinking water, especially if you’re concerned about chemicals and minerals that may be harmful. 

The government of Ontario has provided a list of licensed laboratories in the province which can perform mineral and chemical contamination tests on your drinking water. Before you send a sample to one of these private labs, remember to first contact them to determine whether or not your sample will be accepted (based on their licence class) and how to properly submit a valid sample to ensure that it doesn’t get rejected.

Getting your water tested now will give you lots of time to put remedial measures in place if an issue is discovered, leaving you free to enjoy your summer without being concerned about your water quality. 

Muskoka home and cottage owners looking to have their private drinking water system tested should contact the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for more details.