Water Sciences Laboratory

About the Water Sciences Laboratory

Part of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute and Nebraska Water Center at the University of Nebraska, the Water Sciences Laboratory provides technical expertise and sophisticated analytical instrumentation for environmental and water related research. Specialized analyses are available for trace organics and stable isotopes, as well as more routine methods for measuring water quality.

Faculty, staff, and students have analyzed thousands of samples at the facility to support water sciences research since it was established in 1990. Specialized instrumentation are available for trace-level organic analyses and stable isotope mass spectrometry, as well as equipment used in more routine analyses of water quality. An experienced and highly-skilled staff ensure high quality results for water and environmental research.

Water Science Lab News

An Update from the Nebraska Water Sciences Laboratory
We have been able to implement many of the recommendations from our recent external review, including developing a business plan and hiring a laboratory research manager. This progress has led us to thinking more about the long term.

Know Your Well project moves into second year
Participating students have completed sampling local rural domestic water wells around their home town and area. Starting late last spring, high school students were trained in sampling and recording field observations from up to 20 domestic wells from a 20-mile radius surrounding their school.

Journal of Environmental Quality publishes special section with links to UNL
A special section recently published in the Journal of Environmental Quality (ASA, SSA, SSSA) covering the state of science on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in agricultural environments. This special section is a result of a recently held, USDA-funded workshop organized by Lisa Durso, Jeannie McLain (University of Arizona, Tucson) and Water Sciences Laboratory services director Dan Snow at the 2015 Biosphere.

view more Water Center news

Mission Statement

The mission of the Water Sciences Laboratory is to support environmental and water related research by providing technical services and expertise in analytical and isotopic methods.

download the Water Sciences Laboratory Brochure

Facilities and Equipment

The 6,000 square-foot facility consists of six laboratories, several offices, a conference room, and computer and graduate student areas.

Learn more about the lab


A graduate student completing a water extraction

Guidance and equipment to support your research

The Water Sciences Laboratory is here to support your research needs -- whether you are an experienced faculty member or a student. We provide individualized training, consultation, equipment, and bench space to members of the NU community.

We are in the process of developing new short-course workshops, technical seminar courses designed for undergraduate and graduate level students. Be sure to check back soon for more information.

Contact the lab about training


Environmental Mass Spectrometry

The Water Sciences Laboratory specialize in environmental mass spectrometry and chromatography for the detection and quantification of chemical contaminants including new groups of pesticides, as well as emerging microcontaminants such as antibiotics, veterinary pharmaceuticals and steroid hormones. A few of the newer methods that have been developed include:

  • Steroid hormones and mycotoxins by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry LC/MS/MS – APPI
  • Microcystins and cyanoneurotoxins (anatoxin-a, BMAA, saxitoxin, cylindrospermopsin) by LC/MS/MS
  • Veterinary antibiotics in water, soil, and passive samplers by LC/MS/MS
  • Municipal and domestic wastewater (caffeine, carbamazepine, methamphetamine, and others) by LC/MS/MS

Stable Isotopes

The Lab offers state of the art methods for stable isotope analysis of gases water and solids using stable isotope mass spectrometry.

  • Nitrate (15N-NO3 and 18O-NO3)
  • Phosphate (18O-PO4)
  • Ammonia (15N-NH3)
  • Water (HD and 18O-H2O)
  • Helium-3/4 in ground water by noble gas mass spectrometry, including N2, Ar, Ne, Kr and Xe

Standard testing methods

Finally, the lab also offers a relatively complete set of nutrient and water chemistry methods such as:

  • Nitrogen (TN, TKN, TDN, NO3, NH4)
  • Phosphorus (TP, TKP, TDP, O-PO4)
  • Major ions (anions and cations)
  • Trace elements by ICPMS
  • General water chemistry (pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen)
  • Total suspended, dissolved, and volatile solids (TSS, TDS, TVS)
  • Microcystins by ELISA
  • Chlorophyll by HPLC
  • Biological and chemical oxygen demand

We even have ASBC methods for hops testing, including α-acids and β-acids, and hops storage index (HSI)!

Our available methods are constantly being updated. However, if you have a custom-application not currently listed, contact us and we can discuss method development.

Contact the lab about services