Water Quality Testing

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Testing and Reporting

The La Crosse Water Utility checks and monitors each well location every day. Pumpage from each well is tracked and logged, and chemical levels are tracked and logged. Water samples are tested in accordance with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regulations and requirements. DNR testing results are provided to our customers annually with the La Crosse Water Utility Water Quality Report.

Chlorine and Fluoride

Chlorine is used to disinfect our water and minimize the risk of microbial contamination by bacteria or viruses. The average free residual chlorine concentration in the distribution system is maintained at a minimum of 0.2 parts per million (ppm) (also stated as milligrams per liter, mg/L). Chlorine is added to drinking water systems to assure that microbial organisms such as bacteria and viruses cannot survive in the water. The chlorine levels are not a health concern and, in fact, are established to prevent health risk from bacteria and viruses. If customers experience a persistent and excessive odor or taste of chlorine in their drinking water, they should call the utility at (608) 789-7536, and the report will be investigated.

Fluoride is added to our water to improve dental health and reduce tooth decay. The average fluoride level in our water is currently being set at 0.7 milligrams per liter, based on recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized water fluoridation as one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Lead and Copper

La Crosse's ground water supply does not contain significant amounts of naturally occurring lead or copper. The naturally corrosive nature of water, however, can dissolve or corrode lead and copper through contact with water service lines, interior pipes and plumbing fixtures. Lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects:

  • In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with deficits in attention span and learning abilities.
  • In adults, kidney problems or high blood pressure could result if water with high levels of lead is ingested over a long period of time.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that the levels of lead and copper in drinking water be limited.

If you don't know whether your tap water contains lead you should have the water tested by a certified lab. Proper sampling is required to obtain a valid result. (Note: A single test for lead level in drinking water may not be representative of the level at all times or of the average level over time.)

You can contact the one of the following certified laboratories to get lead sampling procedure information:

State Laboratory of Hygiene
Clinical Laboratories
465 Henry Mall
Madison, WI 53706
(800) 862-1013

La Crosse County Health Department Laboratory
Health and Human Services Building - 2nd Floor
300 4th Street North
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 785-9733


The sub-rock beneath La Crosse's soil is primarily limestone. This is a contributing factor to the “very hard” water of our ground water supply. Hardness can vary somewhat depending on well location. In La Crosse, water hardness typically varies between about 10 grains per gallon (for properties located on the northside) and 18 grains per gallon (for southside properties). There are no harmful health effects associated with these minerals (in fact, some believe they are beneficial), but measuring them does provide a guideline as to how water use may be affected. For example, hard water does result in more scale buildup and you need to use more soap and detergents. If you choose a water softener, it's recommended that a separate, unsoftened supply of water be kept for cooking and drinking. Ion exchange water softeners remove hardness by replacing the calcium and magnesium with sodium salt.

Also, when you buy a new appliance, such as a dishwasher, the manufacturer often makes reference to water hardness. This is because hard water can cause automatic dishwashers to leave film on dishes and build-up of minerals on mechanical parts. It may also cause washing machines to leave residue on articles of clothing and scales that clog water pipes or foul appliances such as water heaters.