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The NWQL has a diverse staff of scientists and technicians.

The NWQL has a diverse staff of scientists and technicians; 98 are permanent Federal employees and 22 are contract employees. These employees are spread across a breadth of organizational units including Research and Development, Analytical Services, Quality Assurance Safety, Health and Environment; Facility Support Services, Support Services, Administration, and Information Technology. Within Research, Quality Assurance, and Analytical Services, expertise includes analytical chemistry and environmental biology. Their expertise includes analytical chemistry, environmental biology, information technology, supply and business administration, and more.

The work of NWQL scientists is recognized nationally and internationally. For example, NWQL scientist Dr. Edward T. Furlong has been designated a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, ranking among the top 1 percent of researchers from 2003 to 2013 for most cited documents in the section on Environment and Ecology. He was listed as one of Thomson Reuters' "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds” in 2015.



The NWQL Administrative Office (Admin) handles all Administrative, Human Resources, Financial and Contractual actions/activities associated internally for the NWQL. These duties include overseeing and facilitating the purchase of equipment, chemicals, materials and contracted services needed for the NWQL to provide the services needed by its customers. This oversight ensures that proper procedures are followed to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse.

The NWQL Administration Office is also committed to excellence in customer service.

VISION: We are one cohesive, collaborative team of professionals dedicated to creating partnerships with the US Geological Survey (USGS) employees, its leadership and outside entities by supporting all NWQL mission areas.

MISSION: With a strong commitment to providing high quality service to our customers, the Administration office ensures that the USGS has the Right People, in the Right Jobs with the Right Skills.

The Administration Office is committed to working cooperatively with our customers toward their success. Our customers’ ideas and opinions are valued. Delivering quality and timely services to them is the most important thing we do.

Analytical chemistry

Analytical Chemistry at NWQL starts with the basic goal of identifying the chemical components of a sample and requires the establishment not only of the types of compounds and elements present in the sample but also their amounts. These are the questions to which analytical chemistry is directed. Qualitative analysis compares the tests that enable the chemist to determine what compounds and elements are present and perhaps their state of combination as well, Quantitative analysis provides the means for determining how much of some component is present in a unit sample.

At NWQL we provide national and international solutions to many types of Water Quality issues. Our world renowned Chemists analyze water, tissues, sediments, and soil for thousands of compounds including pharmaceuticals, hormones, elements, pesticides, nutrients, volatile organics, and much more. An example of how our data is used can be seen in this publication -- Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, and Other Organic Wastewater Contaminants in U.S. Streams.


Bioassessment is the process of evaluating the biological condition of a body of water using biological surveys of the biota living in that system. Algae, macroinvertebrates, and fish are common biota for assessing those conditions.

Information technology

The NWQL’s Information Technology (IT) group is staffed with highly skilled specialists capable of system design and maintenance for an infrastructure of networked computer systems. These systems house numerous databases and associated system and application software to support the lab’s data management activities. The system is fully certified and accredited to FISMA standards by IT Security of USGS.

The Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a special-purpose application that monitors the progress of a sample from original entry in the system, through analysis and review to the final release of results to the customer. The system includes a database of all samples received by the NWQL, and an archive of actions taken with each sample. USGS personnel may use the data base to design an analytical request or may track the progress of their samples and retrieve intermediate results by using Web applications that query the data base.

A Business Intelligence system is used to monitor analytical processes. Analytical results are transmitted to the customer for review and automatic entry into the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS). Once results are finalized, anyone can retrieve information on where and when a sample was collected, as well as accurate concentrations of chemicals found in the sample and the method of analysis through NWIS Web: This data is used by scientists in universities, Federal, State, and local agencies, and public and private sectors.

Methods Research & Development

The Methods Research and Development Program (MRDP) was formed in 1987 to address national-level concerns about toxic contaminants in the nation’s water resources for which there were no available analytical methods with adequate performance. The methods developed at the NWQL involve the MRDP research chemists and support chemists and senior technical personnel within AS to transition new methods into the AS fee-for-service capability while retaining method performance and quality.

Current research is focused on emerging national water quality issues, such as addition of new priorities and to broaden the applicable range of sample types. Additionally, the need to lower detection levels, and to reduce bias and variability drive continuous method optimization efforts on existing methods. New technology and methodology are being applied to the identification of unknown compounds to assist program leadership in their efforts to identify new high priority chemical compounds.

The MRDP is also engaged in continuous improvement for existing methods where needs are identified by numerous feedback mechanisms, including technical assistance, input received from USGS Water Quality Specialists, USGS Water Science Center researchers, and others.

NWQL approved and custom methods are validated, as specified in an MRDP Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Method detection levels are determined using the ASTM Inter-laboratory Detection Estimate. Methods are documented and published in NWQL Tech Memos, Techniques and Methods (T&M) reports and journal articles, as appropriate. Highly specialized detection, quantitation, reporting and data qualification schemes are employed and coded in the laboratory information management system (LIMS) and in NWIS.

Results of MRDP's method development and other research activities are presented at professional meetings, in scientific journals, in USGS publications, and on the Web. The activities of the MRDP are critical to fostering scientific excellence at the NWQL and maintaining its success in supporting USGS water quality assessment programs nationwide.

The MRDP unit works closely with USGS leadership to develop methods to address the highest priority water resource and water quality issues facing the Nation. Methods developed by MRDP are recognized internationally for their breadth and scope of chemical compounds, high sensitivity, data quality and applicability to complex types of samples. Most MRDP-developed methods are transferred to the AS group, which provides high quality, high throughput, analysis in support of USGS priorities.

The collective expertise across USGS National Programs and Water Science Center research programs play a key synergistic role in the growth of science and data quality at the NWQL.

Quality Assurance

The NWQL assures the reliability, reproducibility, and high quality of its data and information through adherence to USGS Fundamental Science Practices for publications. The NWQL has an extensive Quality Management System (QMS) that defines internal quality system processes and requirements. The NWQL also develops and revises a wide variety of Standard Operating Practices to assure consistency and comparability in results over time. The use of comprehensive internal and external QA/QC (Quality Assurance and Quality Control) processes to monitor method and analyst performance insures that NWQL meets its commitment to publish high quality data of known and documented quality. External, independent oversight is provided by the USGS Quality Service Branch as well as accrediting agencies such as the NELAC Institute.

 The NWQL's Quality Assurance Section (QAS) provides oversight of all quality programs documented in the lab's comprehensive Quality Management System. The QAS coordinates the NWQL's internal and external QA/QC processes and performance testing. The QAS staff has expertise in modern analytical science that is leveraged with their quality systems expertise to provide a powerful and highly valued assessment of the NWQL's published results.

Laboratory Proficiency Testing: The NWQL demonstrates exceptional proficiency in testing for a wide range of constituents in various sample matrices by participating in inter-laboratory testing and certification programs administered by third-party agencies. The NWQL takes part in national and international proficiency testing studies coordinated by the following organizations: Environment Canada, New York State Department of Health for the Environmental Laboratory Approval Program (ELAP), and the USGS Quality Systems Branch (QSB). Results of such studies offer an independent check of performance and capability while providing a means for laboratories to be uniformly evaluated.

Safety, Health and Environment

The Safety, Health and Environmental Compliance (SHE) Section ensures the safety of the National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL), monitors the health of its employees, and maintains compliance with environmental regulations with a goal to meet or exceed all Federal, State or local regulations and requirements. The NWQL has a strong safety culture and is fully committed to a safe and healthful workplace for all employees, contractors, volunteers and visitors Employees are engaged in the safety process through monthly Safety Committee meetings and open dialogue with the Safety Manager. The SHE section maintains a “live“ inventory of all chemicals which supports the NWQL’s continuing effort toward green analytical chemistry, including reduced volumes of waste and decreased waste disposal costs. This effort also includes replacing high hazard chemicals with less hazardous ones.

Support Services

The National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) Support Services Section (SSS) supports the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Water Mission Area by providing sample login, logistical, and facilities support to all NWQL functions.

Incoming sample activity involves the processing of Analytical Service Request (ASR) forms which are completed through data entry into the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).

The Login Section is responsible for checking in samples and routing them to various parts of the laboratory. The section receives coolers Monday through Friday throughout the year. Login personnel also retrieve coolers from the FedEx facility on Saturdays during the summer months. They unpack the coolers and match the samples with corresponding Analytical Service Request (ASR) forms. Then they check the samples against the ASRs for accuracy. Login personnel work with customers to resolve problems and ensure that water sample requests are processed promptly and accurately. Samples are assigned Laboratory Identification Numbers and bar code labels are affixed to the bottles. The Data Entry Unit within Login enters technical information from the ASRs into the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The bottles are then sorted by sample type and distributed to the appropriate sections of the lab. The Login Section is also responsible for maintaining the Sample Storage Area which provides the analysts with easy access to samples for analysis or reanalysis.

The Warehouse branch, in addition to handling NWQL warehouse requests for supplies and gases, supports the National Field Supply Service (NFSS) by providing sample collection supplies to USGS field sampling operations. The Warehouse branch is responsible for the procurement, inventory, and distribution of various types of supplies used throughout the NWQL and USGS. The Warehouse branch is also responsible for the tagging, transferring, excessing, and maintaining records of accountable property. The Warehouse branch is also responsible for the wash lab. The wash lab cleans glassware and lab ware that is used by the NWQL. The wash lab also cleans or bakes certain sample collection supplies.

 The Facilities Management branch performs maintenance of NWQL owned building systems and equipment. The Facilities branch manages contracts related to NWQL owned building systems and oversee building projects. The Facilities branch also submits work orders to and coordinates with General Services Administration (GSA) for building related issues.

Specifically, the SSS performs sample login, property management, warehouse operations, laboratory and field supplies, shipping, receiving, wash lab operations, fleet management, specialty gas, compressed air, and deionized water systems, facilities maintenance, and space and telecom support.