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Techniques and Methods 1–D5

Optical Techniques for the Determination of Nitrate in Environmental Waters: Guidelines for Instrument Selection, Operation, Deployment, Maintenance, Quality Assurance, and Data Reporting

By Brian A. Pellerin, Brian A. Bergamaschi, Bryan D. Downing, John Franco Saraceno, Jessica D. Garrett, and Lisa D. Olsen

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (2.3 MB) Abstract

The recent commercial availability of in situ optical sensors, together with new techniques for data collection and analysis, provides the opportunity to monitor a wide range of water-quality constituents on time scales in which environmental conditions actually change. Of particular interest is the application of ultraviolet (UV) photometers for in situ determination of nitrate concentrations in rivers and streams. The variety of UV nitrate sensors currently available differ in several important ways related to instrument design that affect the accuracy of their nitrate concentration measurements in different types of natural waters. This report provides information about selection and use of UV nitrate sensors by the U.S. Geological Survey to facilitate the collection of high-quality data across studies, sites, and instrument types.

For those in need of technical background and information about sensor selection, this report addresses the operating principles, key features and sensor design, sensor characterization techniques and typical interferences, and approaches for sensor deployment. For those needing information about maintaining sensor performance in the field, key sections in this report address maintenance and calibration protocols, quality-assurance techniques, and data formats and reporting. Although the focus of this report is UV nitrate sensors, many of the principles can be applied to other in situ optical sensors for water-quality studies.

First posted July 24, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, California Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6000 J Street, Placer Hall
Sacramento, California 95819

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Pellerin, B.A., Bergamaschi, B.A., Downing, B.D., Saraceno, J.F., Garrett, J.A., and Olsen, L.D., 2013, Optical techniques for the determination of nitrate in environmental waters: Guidelines for instrument selection, operation, deployment, maintenance, quality assurance, and data reporting: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods 1–D5, 37 p.



Introduction and Background

Evaluating the Need for Continuous Data

Principles of UV Absorbance Measurements for Nitrate

Sensor Design

Instrument Components

Data Specifications

Matrix Effects

Sensor Selection

Instrument Performance Qualification

Instrument Deployment

Data Collection

Maintenance and Field Operations

Data-Processing Procedures

Reporting Parameter and Method Codes

Final Data Evaluation and Review



References Cited

Appendix 1. Calculating Data-Quality Specifications for UV Nitrate Sensors

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