Water Analysis Laboratory

Lab Description

DRI’s Water Analysis Laboratory was established to provide reliable, high-quality chemical analysis for environmental water samples. The laboratory has over 30 years of experience and provides analytical services for a wide variety of customers, including federal, local and state government agencies, private industry and other commercial laboratories.

The laboratory specializes in low-level (ppb) nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon-nutrient analysis of environmental water samples and has provided those analyses for numerous DRI projects in Nevada and California, including Lake Tahoe and Walker Lake watersheds. Due to the diversity of interests and expertise within DRI’s Division of Hydrologic Sciences, personnel has gained valuable knowledge and experience in the analysis of many different sample types. DRI’s water laboratory has participated in projects ranging from precipitation chemistry to playa lake characterization studies.


  • Alpkem RFA 300 and Technicon Automated Colorimetric Analyzers are used routinely for the analysis of: NO2, NO3, NH3, TKN, TPO4, OPO4, and SiO2. The Alpkem RFA is equipped with an Astoria-Pacific 305D high sensitivity photometer detector. Both systems are controlled by Windows-based operating systems.
  • Dionex Model ICS 2000 Ion Chromatograph is used for the automated analysis of Cl, Br, SO4. This instrument has the capability of simultaneously determining all of the anions mentioned using less than a milliliter of sample to the parts per billion level.
  • Brinkmann Metrohm Titrando Automated Titrator capable of potentiometric titrations to fixed or inflection end points is used in the determination of CO3, HCO3, pH, EC, and F.
  • OI Analytical 1030W Carbon Analyzer is routinely used for determination of DOC and TOC in water samples.
  • Thermo Elemental SOLAAR M5 Atomic Absorption Spectrometer with air-acetylene flame and vapor generation capabilities is used for major cation and many trace metal analyses.
  • Thermo IRIS Intrepid Inductively Coupled Plasma Emission Specrometer (ICP-AES) complements the capabilities of the atomic absorption spectrometer and permits lower detection limits for many trace metals.

The laboratory maintains an extensive quality control program to ensure data integrity, precision and reliability of its activities. Program objectives include: maintaining a continuing assessment of the accuracy and precision of data generated; providing a record of instrument performance for data validation and maintenance; ensuring sampling integrity; maintaining accurate records; and producing high-quality analytical results. The following describes only a portion of the quality control program.

    1. Laboratory personnel have a minimum of a bachelor degree in a scientific area and several years of experience in chemical analysis.
    2. The laboratory participates in the USGS Standard Reference Sample Project (analyzing blind samples prepared from natural-matrix waters) in the spring and fall each year for over 20 years to confirm the accuracy of its analytical procedures. 
    3. Precision is monitored by multi-point calibration curves and by conducting spiked and duplicate analyses on ten percent of all samples analyzed.
    4. Laboratory data are stored on secure file server systems that provide a central area for storage of all field and laboratory data. All databases are structured to permit easy output and comparison of the various databases.


    Alan Heyvaert, Ph.D.
    Lab Director


    Desert Research Institute
    2215 Raggio Parkway
    Reno, NV 89512


    Hydrologic Sciences