LIMS Key to Quality Data Management in Water Industry

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WEFTEC  has just  wrapped up its 2012 conference – the largest meeting of its kind in North America.  The Water Environment Federations’ annual meeting has again delivered comprehensive water quality education and training to thousands of water quality professionals.  The leading discussions at WEFTEC this year were centered  around emerging research and innovations in the industry.  These conversations addressed  global  concerns  –  from industrial issues, municipal wastewater treatment, and facility operations to watershed resources management and reclamation and reuse projects. Embedded within all of these topics is the issue of data, and what to do with it. A laboratory information management system (LIMS) is an essential part of the modern water testing laboratory and is more and more a critical consideration for lab and infrastructure investments in municipalities, utilities and contract laboratories of all sizes. With increasing requirements for testing of new contaminants as well as increasing demand, most water facilities still struggle with some form of paper based data management system.  The instruments in a water testing laboratory will continue to generate more and more data and now the question is, what systems will be put in place to manage that increased data load?  A LIMS is an essential tool for managing samples, for compiling data related to those samples, and for supporting quality and other laboratory processes.  A LIMS can also fully integrate all of the instruments in the lab so that data is efficiently captured, stored and then distributed to anyone who needs it.  By capturing water testing data in a centralized LIMS, water facilities managers can also have the assurance that their records will meet compliance requirements for any regulatory or governing body, be it the global ISO standards or the US-centric NELAC.

I’ve put together a variety of materials which illustrate how a LIMS has become a critical component of any water testing laboratory.  Colin Thurston from Thermo Fisher Scientific has written extensively on the subject and I’ve included some of his published materials here.  He’s also done a 7-minute video from the floor of WEFTEC that discusses the role of a LIMS in the water testing laboratory and the efficiency and compliance-related benefits of integrating instruments with the LIMS.

A few articles in particular I thought would be useful reading. The first published by WaterWorld, addresses the benefits of a LIMS in meeting regulatory reporting requirements - Automated Data Management Helps Labs Meet Regulatory, Reporting Requirements.  A second article published by WaterOnline, speaks to the need to maintain quality data, an important consideration in the US especially since the infrastructure is aging. Read Quality Data Management: an Essential Component of US Water Infrastructure. Finally, a third article published by Laboratory  Equipment,  Using LIMS to Deliver Safe Water,  illustrates the operational efficiencies that can be gained by using a LIMS to integrate the lab and centralize data.

If you’d like more technical information about a LIMS that is purpose-built for the water industry and that can satisfy reporting requirements for ISO 17025 and other regulatory agencies, a good reference site is Resources for Water and Environmental Testing Laboratories.

With so much at stake in delivering clean water, water facilities everywhere are facing the reality of   managing more samples, testing for more contaminants, and complying with more regulations. A LIMS will prove to be the greatest tool in the laboratory for efficiently managing this increasingly complex workflow and more stringent regulatory environment.

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