Total organic carbon (TOC) testing is the traditional method for determining organic matter in water. However there is a far more practical, affordable and often more useful way to measure organic matter. UV absorbance testing (UVA) is rapidly becoming the preferred method of measuring organics even when the levels of organics being measured are very small.
Organic matter in water is the source of many water quality challenges. Some of the problems organics can cause include: providing food for unwanted microbiological growth; causing the formation of disinfection by-products when mixed with chlorine and other disinfectants; consuming coagulant chemicals and generally complicating many of the chemical processes involved in water treatment; clogging membranes and filters increasing backwashing and carbon regeneration requirements; and many more. Organic compounds are also key components of many industrial processes such as food processing and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Given all the challenges caused by organics in water and the prevalence of organics in our industrial processes it is no surprise that the measurement and control of organics is becoming more and more important.
Common Organics Test Parameters
To measure organic matter in water, there are several common organics parameters available to choose from including UV absorbance (UVA), TOC, DOC, BOD, and COD. All of them can be performed readily in a laboratory. However, testing grab samples in the lab generally does not provide enough information for proper control of organics. For proper control, organics are best monitored in real-time. Due to the complexity of the common lab-based organic test parameters, only UVA and TOC instruments have really had any success in real-time industrial environments.
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