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How Water Testing Works

February 24, 2023 | Categories: ,
water testing

Have you heard about the new water testing program we have at all 24 of our locations? We’re offering free water testing to customers who bring in a sample of their spray water. Because your spray water can interfere with the chemicals you apply, we want to ensure that you’re not spraying “expensive water.” Testing your water will provide the information to condition your spray water so you don’t have to apply more chemicals than necessary.

Some water testing programs only measure pH, but they miss an important piece of the puzzle: bicarbonates. When we talk about water hardness, we’re referring to calcium bicarbonates in the water. These bicarbonates antagonize herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. They strip active ingredients of their hydrogen atoms, changing the molecular formula and rendering the chemicals less effective. 

Weak acid herbicides (2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba, glyphosate, glufosinate, carfentrazone, and more) are especially vulnerable to bicarbonate interference. The negative effects of bicarbonates increase with the time the chemical is exposed to the water, meaning results could be inconsistent from one treatment site to another. 

Our water testing program uses test kits from Hach to measure both pH and bicarbonate levels. The results are immediate, and you’ll walk away with recommendations for how to correct any water quality issues in your sample.

What should you expect when you bring your water in for sampling? We’ll use a ​​5.83-mL vial to measure the sample into a bottle for testing. We’ll rinse the vial and bottle with distilled water before testing to avoid any cross-contamination.

Once we’ve measured your sample into the bottle, the testing process involves three quick steps.

  1. We’ll add a pre-measured phenolphthalein indicator powder to the bottle to ensure an appropriate acid level for testing. As long as the indicator doesn’t change the color of the water, we’ll move on to the next step. If the water quality is especially low, the phenolphthalein indicator will change it to a pink color. In that case, we’ll add acid one drop at a time until it becomes clear again.
  2. Once we have a clear sample in the bottle again, we’ll add a pre-measured bromcresol green-methyl red indicator powder to the bottle. This step will turn the water green in preparation for the next part of the testing process.
  3. Finally, we’ll add a sulfuric acid standard solution one drop at a time. We’ll count how many drops it takes to change the sample from green to red. Then, we’ll multiply that number by 20 to calculate the parts per million (ppm) of bicarbonates in the sample. A bicarbonate level below 120ppm is ideal, so we’ll recommend corrective products for samples with a level higher than 120.

Depending on the results of your water test, we may recommend a spreader-sticker or a spray enhancer to protect the integrity of your liquid applications. “Water conditioning” is a common practice in agriculture, and it makes sense for lawn care too because spray water is the primary carrier for all your liquid applications. 

Ultimately, we want to help you achieve better control with your initial applications to avoid repeat applications, higher chemical costs, and more labor hours. Bring a sample of your spray water into your local ATS facility for testing to find out if you’re spraying expensive water! Testing is free, and it won’t take more than 15 minutes.