KH_Grotto Falls (copy)

The Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The University of Tennessee is one of the largest public schools in the Southeast, offering many different opportunities for research and learning. One of these opportunities that has recently become a nationally recognized achievement is the Water Quality Core Facility.

The laboratory began in spring of 2018 at the Tickle College of Engineering. It was established in order to provide services to analyze and record water qualities for a variety of different services. This system is currently used by U.S. National Laboratories and other departments at UT including microbiology, bio-systems and soil science and Earth and planetary sciences.

Because this is a public rather than a private lab, many of the services offered are not in order to create a profit,but are offered in order to expand the knowledge and research of those working in the lab. Those at the lab are still working to create ties with others across the nation in order to better serve the researchers and those benefiting from the system.

Chris Cox, department head of civil and environmental engineering and director of the core facility, provides financial and supervisory oversight of the core facility. He noted that there are approximately a dozen faculty members whose research is supported by the lab.

“These researchers would not be able to do their work without the capabilities offered by the lab,” Cox said. “The core facility offers these services in a cost effective way because it avoids duplication of equipment across research labs. The accreditation is needed by certain research funding agencies, such as the National Park Service. They have requested that we provide this service to them.”

John Schwartz, user of the Water Quality Core Facility, is performing research on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, investigating the impacts of acidic rain on stream water quality and the sustainability of aquatic animal and plant life.

“The lab measures basic water chemistry parameters for surface waters, ions and dissolved metals mostly, but (it) can run pH, alkalinity, dissolved carbon, conductivity (and) other parameters,” Schwartz said. “The lab is to serve the UT research community working on projects to help improve water resources for natural environments, drinking water supplies, public recreation and other societal beneficial uses.”

Cox discussed additional benefits that the lab could provide in day to day life for the average consumer.

“The water quality core facility supports a tremendous amount of faculty and student research related to water quality,” Cox said. “This research helps protect drinking water supplies, fisheries and recreational water bodies from contamination and is instrumental in cost-effectively protecting clean water for Tennesseans, both now and in the future.”

In the future, the lab plans to receive national accreditation to reach out to more facilities across the nation in order to provide even higher quality testing for all of the benefits the Water Quality Core Facility offers.

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