What Does TDS Stand For in Water Testing? 

Total dissolved solids (TDS) are inorganic salts, minerals, and metals that are dissolved in water. These can be naturally occurring, as in the case of spring water, or they can be the result of human activities such as dumping excess salts on roads, or improper disposal of pharmaceuticals down the drain. 

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Natural Minerals

All water has natural minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These are not harmful to humans, and they are essential for good health. 

However, other dissolved substances such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and pesticides can be dangerous. These contaminants must be filtered out before drinking or cooking with them, and they can also affect the taste of your water. 

TDS can be measured using a TDS meter, which uses an electrical conductivity measurement to determine how much of the dissolved solids are present in a sample. The number of ions that conduct electricity in the sample is then multiplied by the electrical conductivity to arrive at the TDS level. The units are usually expressed in parts per million, or ppm, but can sometimes be expressed as milligrams per liter (mg/l). 

A TDS meter can only measure dissolved solids and does not indicate what is dissolved in the water, so it’s important to have a water test performed if you want a more thorough picture of your water. 

Almost all of the high TDS still waters are sourced from regions that have experienced volcanic activity, and these waters impart their sparkling taste to the water through natural carbonation from cooling magma that releases carbonic acid. It is the only way for this water to impart a sparkle. 

Bottled Water & TDS

A lot of bottled water is low TDS because it’s sourced directly from the source and is not subjected to a soil that leaches minerals into the liquid. Rainwater, too, is usually low TDS because it falls straight from the sky into a holding tank without any time spent in the soil to leach its minerals. 

It is rare, though, for bottled water to be high TDS because it has never been subjected to any soil that leaches its minerals into the liquid. A great example of this is Three Bays from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, which spends 2000 years passing through red soil rich in 23 different healthy minerals before imparting a TDS level of 1300. 

Water with a high TDS level can be unpleasant to drink, or it may be too salty, or even toxic for humans and pets. TDS can also alter the color, taste, and odor of water, making it unsuitable for bathing or cleaning. 

TDS is important to consider because it helps to distinguish between natural and artificially-treated water. It can be helpful for identifying contaminants in water such as drugs, hormones, and pesticides. 

TDS levels can be very low, or extremely high, depending on the source and the quality of treatment used. TDS levels are generally regulated by state and local agencies to ensure that water is safe for consumption, but there are some exceptions. For example, the highest TDS levels can be found in very rare sparkling waters from regions that have experienced volcanic activity, such as Three Bays from Australia’s Mornington peninsula.