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11/24/2015 by mdc
The USGS has produced a new guidance document. The process of obtaining and analyzing water samples from the environment includes a number of steps that can affect the reported result. The equipment used to collect and filter samples, the bottles used for specific subsamples, any added preservatives, sample storage in the field, and shipment to the laboratory have the potential to affect how accurately samples represent the environment from which they were collected.

During the early 1990s, the USGS implemented policies to include the routine collection of quality-control samples in order to evaluate these effects and to ensure that water-quality data were adequately representing environmental conditions. Since that time, the USGS Office of Water Quality has provided training in how to design effective field quality-control sampling programs and how to evaluate the resultant quality-control data. This report documents that training material and provides a reference for methods used to analyze quality-control data.

Quality-control data are those generated from the collection and analysis of quality-control samples, and are used to estimate the magnitude of errors in the process of obtaining environmental data. Bias and variability are the terms used in this report for the two types of errors in environmental data that are quantified by the data from quality-control samples. Bias is the systematic error inherent in a method or measurement system.

Variability is the random error that occurs in independent measurements. The types of field quality-control samples discussed in this report include blanks, spikes, and replicates. Blanks are samples prepared with water that is intended to be free of measurable constituents that will be analyzed by the laboratory... blanks are used to estimate bias caused by contamination. Spiked samples are modified by addition of specific analytes ... spikes are used to determine the performance of analytical methods and ....

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