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Analytical Methods for Drinking Water

Learn about Drinking Water Analytical Methods

On this page:

What are analytical methods?

Analytical methods are procedures used to measure the amount of particular contaminants in water samples.

Analytical methods generally describe how to:

  • Collect, preserve, and store the sample
  • Gather, separate, identify, and measure contaminants in the sample
  • Meet quality control criteria
  • Report the results of the analysis

In general, an analytical method:

  • Applies to routine analyses of samples
  • Measures the drinking water contaminant(s) within a specific upper and lower limit
  • Provides data that are required to:
    • Demonstrate compliance, or
    • Meet monitoring objectives in a wide variety of drinking water conditions
  • Incorporates appropriate quality control criteria so that acceptable method performance is demonstrated during sample analysis

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Who develops methods?

Methods are developed by:

  • EPA or other governmental organizations
  • Consensus method organizations such as Standard Methods and ASTM, International
  • Universities
  • Water laboratories
  • Commercial vendors

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How does EPA evaluate methods developed by others?

EPA uses the Alternate Test Procedure Program to evaluate analytical methods from a variety of sources.

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How does EPA approve methods?

EPA approves methods:

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Who uses the methods?

Laboratories supporting public water systems must use EPA-approved analytical methods when analyzing samples to demonstrate compliance with drinking water regulations

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How can I get involved?

EPA hosted a public meeting and webinar in June 2018 at the Andrew W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center in Cincinnati, OH. The meeting continued the open discussion with stakeholders and was designed to spark innovation on analytical testing procedures for unregulated contaminants in drinking water.

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