Laboratory Management - Integrated Sampling the Key to Safe Water Supply

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Leading water suppliers use Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) to integrate the sample collection and analysis process, helping to maximize the efficiency of these programs.

Drinking water suppliers around the world face unique challenges: They must deliver the most essential ingredient for life on a grand scale, while also navigating complex issues surrounding public safety, regulations and aging infrastructure. In light of these challenges, how do water suppliers ensure that the millions of people around the globe who use public water receive a safe, reliable product? One common answer is comprehensive sampling and analysis of the water supply.

To comply with strict new standards, follow business best practices and, of course, keep customers safe and satisfied, water suppliers manage enormous testing programs, collecting and testing millions of water samples from myriad sources. Conducting and analyzing these tests is an immense undertaking, but LIMS csn be used laboratory information management systems tory compliance. (LIMS), which automate sample planning and laboratory processes and integrate analytical data from across the lab and outside, help modern labs keep pace.

WATER SAMPLING CHALLENGES

Over the last decade, the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) and the EPA in the U.S., along with other regulatory bodies around the world, such as the European Commission and the Drinking Water Inspectorate in the UK, have instituted rigorous new standards for water testing. These regulations provide a set of protocols outlining what is acceptable within a multi-disciplinary water laboratory in accordance with internationally accepted standards.

Stringent requirements dictate new labor-intensive procedures to ensure compliance, such as sample tracking, chain of custody (COC), record keeping, demonstration of capability (DOC), document control, reagent and standard traceability, proof of training and reporting. And since water testing labs must work closely with municipalities, municipal utility districts, water control and improvement districts and federal and state regulatory authorities, the number of tests and the data they generate create a massive amount of information.

Water sampling includes tests for both process control and safety/ regulatory compliance. Process control tests help streamline water treatment and increase throughput, whereas safety and regulatory compliance sampling ensures that the water supplier provides a consistently clean, appealing product that complies with government mandates

WHY A LIMS IS CRITICAL

LIMS are the key to addressing growing challenges with monitoring and compliance, and they have become more necessary and more prevalent in today's labs. Paper-based systems can no longer handle the volume of sample throughput, data management and reporting complexity in an effective manner. A LIMS schedules and holds sampling plans, which are then used to generate a collection run for each sampler.

CASE STUDY

Northern Ireland Water provides an example of a sophisticated water sampling program that takes full advantage of a LIMS. The government-owned company is the sole provider of water to Northern Ireland, serving 1.7 million people at 800,000 properties. Like U.S. water suppliers, the company must comply with strict regulations—in Northern Ireland Water's case, both EU and UK standards — which, in common with EPA regulations, are derived from the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality. These entail

OVER THE LAST DECADE, the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) and the EPA in the U.S., along with other regulatory bodies around the world, such as the European Commission and the Drinking Water Inspectorate in the UK, have instituted rigorous new standards for water testing.

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