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Water testing

Metrohm experts explain the significance of water testing

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Metrohm's lab, including an ion chromatograph for analysis of anions and cations in water and other samples.
Metrohm's lab, including an ion chromatograph for analysis of anions and cations in water and other samples.

Metrohm has been manufacturing precision instruments for chemical analysis since the 1940s, and is currently the only company in the world to offer water analysis solutions by titration, ion chromatography and polarograpy. We asked Viswanath Venkataraman, the company’s Middle East sales manager, to give us an overview of the region’s water testing industry.

What is the significance of water monitoring and analysis in the Middle East?
Water is a precious resource in the region, and largely produced by desalination. Awareness on the quality of water – be it for industrial or domestic use – the efficiency of treatment processes, discharge after treatment and environmental monitoring, is leading to an increase in analytical requirements, both at the laboratory and online for continuous monitoring.

Also, there is an increasing awareness to adhere to international norms and regulation like EPA guidelines for wastewater discharge, World Health Organisation norms for level of bromate in produced drinking water etc… contributing to a growth in analytical instruments and services.

What are typical test types?
We offer solutions for laboratory and online measurements based on techniques like titration, ion chromatography, colormetric, ion selective electrode and polarography.

For laboratory analysis, starting with a pH meter, we offer unique products for water analysis in the lab. The Titric System, combining titration and ion chromatography means we can measure – from a single sample – pH, conductivity, hardness, alkalinity and anions, including bromated, cations and ionic balance.

For online analysis, custom-built analysers can provide single parameter analysers or multiple parameters in a single unit, enabling, for example, the measurement of critical parameters like COD, sulphide and phenol. It’s also possible to offer online trace metal analysis in the parts per trillion ranges.

Is an increase in wastewater reuse a concern for you?
Considering the availability, cost of production and transportation of water, it is wise that water is treated for reuse. However, the efficiency of that treatment and the consistency in the quality of the treated water must be assuring enough for people, and encourage them to use it.

I am sure that with the improved technologies for water treatment and monitoring techniques available, we should be looking at more opportunities to reuse wastewater.

What trends are developing?
Water parameters monitoring has always been an important part of the industry, but the monitoring was historically more restricted to analysis of a few samples per day in the laboratory.

Online monitoring with simple probe-based analysers, which offer approximate and correlating values to actual lab measurements, was an option.

Today though, regulatory bodies are trying to ensure more accurate and precise measurements both in the lab and online, and the industry is also looking at similar methods for both the online and laboratory, which would bring about better correlation and reliability in the results.

This is a main focus of our products; offerings for similar and correlating methods for the lab and online instruments. Inter-lab correlation programmes offered by the major monitoring bodies and organisations are also getting to be popular, giving assurance on results.

What are the biggest challenges facing the industry?
Strict monitoring and regulation by instrumental methods, along with validation will bring a great change in water monitoring. Today, analytical methodologies are specified but without stringent instrumental methodology adaptation. Today, continuous monitoring of critical parameters is being implemented in only a few projects.

The perception that online instruments are very expensive, are difficult to operate and require a lot of maintenance also needs to be revisited. Provided with the basic requirements and care, analysers provide the best output, do so efficiently with the possibility to correlate values to the lab results, allowing users to validate the analysers for performance while in use.

What are the main techniques used today, and how do these differ from previously?
Techniques used for water analysis have more or less remained the same – measurement, ion selective electrodes, titration, ion chromatography, colormetric etc… What has improved is the limits of detection; improved reliability of detection and simplified interfaces between men and instruments.

This is thanks to various people working together to develop products, with chemists, highly qualified electronics engineers, software specialists and designers collaborating closely in project teams.

What technology looks set to change the industry?
We believe that water monitoring is going to be an equally important part of our lives in the future. One trend is simple measurement – hand-held monitors for quick and instant measurements, which bring to the forefront the biosensor technology.

The future will belong to multi-parameter, multi-chemistry and multi-channel capability analysis. In online monitoring, wireless transmission of results, remote access and control to implement preventative and correction action will be more in use.

Where do you see the industry in the next ten years?
We foresee a growth in the water monitoring industry, both in the laboratory and online. With a growing need to adhere to regulatory norms and standards, prescribed by various governmental bodies and agencies, there will be new requirements that should contribute toward better growth prospects.

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