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Informational vs Compliance Testing: what’s the difference, which is better, and which do I need?

By Steve Angersbach

female scientist performing water testing

Strictly speaking, compliance testing is intended (and required) for those entities that must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and report the quality of their water against established US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits to local, state, or federal agencies. With some exceptions, informational testing is for everyone else.

Who needs compliance testing?

Common examples include public water supplies or utilities and other organizations which may require compliance reporting such as public services, including state or county facilities, or for use in legal proceedings. For most individuals and businesses, compliance reporting is not necessary, simply because they are not required to comply with and report their performance relative to SDWA and EPA standards. Their results are intended for their personal or business use and in these cases, informational testing is appropriate.

What about those exceptions?

There are some instances where specific local requirements, regulation, or the intended use of drinking water test results may mean that compliance testing or local certification may be needed even if the purpose does not explicitly fall under the requirements of the SDWA. For example, in some locations, and depending on the lender and their underwriting, real estate transactions may fall into this grey area. If you are using your water testing results to support a real estate transaction, it is always a good idea to verify with your lender or county what their specific requirements are, so you purchase the testing that they are looking for.

So, what’s the difference between informational and compliance testing?

In order to offer compliance testing, a drinking water testing laboratory must hold EPA certification in the analytes it offers such testing for. Depending on the location and end use purpose of the report, additional local or state certification may also be necessary. Compliance testing must use EPA or other approved, standardized methods to analyze your sample. For laboratories that are not EPA certified, no such requirements exist to offer informational testing, and even for those labs that are EPA certified, they may choose to accept different, even lower, quality control and assurance standards for their informational vs compliance tests.

What type of testing does Xperiential Laboratories provide?

As an EPA certified drinking water testing laboratory, Xperiential Laboratories has undergone rigorous routine inspection of our facilities, instrumentation, operating and quality control procedures. We use only accepted, standardized analysis methods and in particular, our quality control and assurance standards are the same, regardless of whether you order informational or compliance testing, assuring you of the accuracy and precision of your results. Xperiential offers informational testing nationwide and compliance testing in our service area.

Which is better and is there a difference between the Xpress Water Testing® reports for informational vs compliance testing?

Regardless of which type of testing you order from Xperiential Laboratories, our quality control and assurance standards are the same, assuring you of the accuracy and precision of your results, and both provide you the option to schedule a consultation call with our scientists to go over your results. While both our informational and compliance testing will compare what we find in your water to established EPA standards, only our informational reports include the rich, robust discussion and details our customers have come to expect from Xpress Water Testing®, including our recommended limits and treatment technology recommendations.

What are recommended limits in informational testing?

An added benefit of informational testing with your Xpress Water Testing® report is that our informational tests show you precisely what we found in your water as compared to established EPA standards and to our scientists’ recommended levels. These recommended levels are based upon the latest clinical, public health, and scientific thinking and are often lower than EPA limits, which may have been established decades ago. Xperiential also provides treatment technology recommendations with your informational report to help guide you to a solution for any contaminant or characteristic concerns we may find in your water. These benefits are only available with our informational testing and not available with our compliance testing.

So which do I need, informational or compliance testing?

Unless you are a public water utility, government agency, or are using your test results for legal proceedings, informational testing is likely to be your best choice. With Xperiential, it offers the same level of quality control, assurance, accuracy, and precision, and provides you with a more detailed and robust report. If you do need compliance testing and have further questions, simply contact our Customer Service team to help.

Learn more about Xpress Water Testing® here

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