Bore water quality testing

Bore water should be tested and deemed safe before being used for drinking, cooking, use in swimming pools or watering edible plants such as home grown vegetables.

Testing varies between private bores and commercial or community-based bores however all bores need to have microbiological (E. coli) and chemical quality testing prior to use.

Undertaking testing

All testing of the water samples from a private, commercial or community-based bore should be carried out by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited analytical laboratory. Refer to the drinking water quality testing laboratories page for a list of laboratories and services offered.

Note that for testing of new domestic bores in the Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area, a condition of the permit is that water samples must be collected by suitably qualified personnel and testing performed by a NATA accredited laboratory. Refer to the Lifting the Moratorium FAQs on the Department for Environment and Water website.

Refer below for more information on what is tested and the frequency of testing for both private bores and commercial or community-based bores.

Interpretation of results

The laboratory usually will provide a certificate of results, listing the concentrations of microbes and chemicals found. Contact SA Health’s Scientific Services for assistance with interpretation of your test results.

Chemical results

The results of the analysis of water intended for human consumption are compared to the Australian Drinking Water Guideline values. Some chemical parameters however, may not be regulated by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Microbial results

The detection of E. coli, an indicator of microbial contamination shows that maintenance and/or treatment is inadequate and requires immediate investigation. E. coli should not be detected in a minimum 100 mL sample of drinking water.

An alternative source of water should be used for drinking and food preparation or the bore water should be boiled prior to use. Should you wish to use contaminated water for other domestic purposes contact SA Health’s Scientific Services for assistance.

Failed test results

Finding a solution for bores that have failed chemical or microbial testing needs to be done on a case by case basis. The remedy, if possible, will depend upon the levels of contaminates found, the cause of contamination, and the intended use of the water.

If the water fails a chemical test, alternative water supplies are recommended and the results discussed with SA Health’s Scientific Services. Note that boiling water cannot remove chemicals.

If the microbiological test fails, alternative water supplies should be used for drinking and food preparation or the bore water should be boiled prior to use.

If at any stage there are changes in appearance or odour, immediate water quality testing is advised.

Testing requirements for private bores

Both microbiological and chemical quality tests need to occur prior to use, particularly where the previous history of the bore is unknown. After the initial analysis the bore water should be checked every 2 years and monitored for any undesirable changes in water quality. If at any stage there are changes in appearance or odour, further water quality testing is advised.

Test parameters:

  • E. coli (as an indicator of faecal contamination)
  • Fluoride
  • Nitrate
  • Total dissolved solids (where not already known)
  • Antimony
  • Arsenic
  • Barium
  • Beryllium
  • Boron
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Managnese
  • Mercury
  • Molybdenum
  • Nickel
  • Selenium
  • Silver
  • Uranium.

Additional testing parameters in the metropolitan area

For bores in the metropolitan area testing should also include analysis of volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene commonly found in parts of Adelaide. The presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is not widespread. However, testing will be required in areas identified as at risk. Contact the Water Quality Unit at SA Health on (08) 8226 7100 for further advice.

Testing requirements for commercial or community-based bores

Bore water that is supplied to the public for drinking (Including food preparation) is subject to the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. See the Providing Safe drinking water web page for further information.