Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Comparisons of Organic Carbon Analyzers and Related Importance to Water Quality Assessments


This study tested whether analyzers using different methods were equally capable of measuring organic carbon in diverse environmental water samples from California’s Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and its watersheds. The study also evaluated whether the different instruments might provide differing organic carbon concentration measurements, which could in turn trigger (or not) a regulatory requirement for enhanced coagulation at a water treatment plant. In Phase 1, samples were collected in eight monthly events at five stations associated with California’s State Water Project and analyzed using three high temperature combustion and three chemical oxidation instruments. Significant differences between instruments occurred in only 20% of the analyses. However, 80% of the observed differences were attributed to one combustion instrument that reported higher values compared to the other instruments. In Phase 2, four certified standards were analyzed with nine instruments. Results suggested that the main contributor of the observed differences was some instruments’ inability to remove inorganic carbon, an important step in the analytical process. There were no significant differences in the frequencies at which different instruments would have prescribed enhanced coagulation at a water treatment plant. We concluded that properly operating instruments using any of the standard methods were equally capable of analyzing the diverse concentration levels of organic carbon in the Delta.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View