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Water Samples in the Water Quality Core Facility

New UT Lab Offers Water Quality Testing for National Agencies

A laboratory established in spring 2018 in UT’s Tickle College of Engineering is on its way to becoming a regional leader in water quality analysis.

The Water Quality Core Facility already has relationships with some noteworthy clients.

“The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area are longtime partners with UT,” said lab manager Adrian Gonzalez. “We’ve done water analyses for them since the 1990s to monitor effects from acid rain and climate change, but we are entering a whole new chapter through the establishment of this dedicated lab.”

The lab offers analytical services and expertise to clients such as the US National Laboratories and to other UT departments including microbiology, biosystems and soil science, and earth and planetary sciences.

Housed in the Science and Engineering Research Facility, WQCF was envisioned by Chris Cox, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as a natural step in the collaborative history between GSMNP and John Schwartz, professor and director of UT’s Tennessee Water Resources Research Center.

Gonzalez earned his doctorate under Schwartz last year while serving as manager of the lab that was the precursor to the WQCF.

Gonzalez credited the department and Facilities Services for the “Herculean effort” put forth to quickly transform the space and expand the lab’s client base.

“Water quality is important to more than academic researchers, so our mission is to offer high-quality analytical services to a broad spectrum of clients,” Gonzalez said. “Our combination of facilities, expertise, and experience with long-term partners offers a unique opportunity.”

Adrian Gonzalez in the WQCF Lab
Research Associate Professor and Technical Manager of the Water Quality Core Facility Adrian Gonzalez gives a tour of the new lab, which provides testing for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, among others.

Gonzalez said the lab is seeking national accreditation, which will open partnerships with organizations seeking the most reliable, accurate, and reproducible water quality measurements.

Accreditation means the lab meets or exceeds the data quality standards required of many high-budget commercial labs around the country.

“Clients know that if they partner with UT, they will have the same or better data quality as anywhere else, but at a greatly reduced cost,” he said. “As a public university, part of our mission is to promote research and education in the public realm, whereas private labs have a heavier focus on turning profit.”