A screenshot of the DWIT tool
Each year thousands of homeowners get their water tested through accredited testing labs. The resulting laboratory reports often include complex language, symbols and standards that make it difficult to determine if the drinking water is safe to drink or use for household purposes.
Penn State Extension and the Master Well Owner Network worked with the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment to create an online Drinking Water Interpretation Tool (DWIT) web tool that can help homeowners make sense of laboratory water test results after their well, spring or cistern is tested. This tool was first developed at Colorado State University and was adapted to make it more relevant to Pennsylvania drinking water issues.
Users can enter results from any commercial water-test report and the Web tool will "decode" the results. The site addresses bacterial and chemical contaminants along with aesthetic issues such as turbidity, color units and odor, and levels of corrosivity, providing a full interpretation of water quality. The "results" page breaks down the laboratory test figures into a table of information addressing each value that was entered into the interpretation tool with links to additional information for any water test results that do not meet drinking water standards.
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the results page is a short paragraph answering the question "Does sample meet water safety standards?" This section details each parameter, outlining the nature of the pollutant (bacteria, liquid or industrial solvent to name a few), its origins, how it enters a private water supply and the associated threats posed when levels exceed acceptable standards. The section also provides information on how to remove or treat contaminants.
In addition to the Drinking Water Interpretation Tool, Penn State Extension has numerous other educational resources for private water system owners including an article on Common Drinking Water Problems and Solutions. This site offers numerous fact sheets, videos and other resources on everything from water testing to choosing a well location, safeguarding your well from contaminants and properly solving drinking water problems.