Clean Water Laboratory at Dalhousie University

People on project:

Graham GagnonHeather Daurie


Halifax Water

Clean Water Laboratory at Dalhousie University

The Clean Water Laboratory is a 4500 square foot state-of-the-art water quality analysis laboratory. The laboratory was inaugurated in 2010 with funding from Halifax Water and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). The Clean Water Laboratory has the capacity to evaluate the physical, chemical and microbiological properties of drinking water, waste water and industrial effluents. The Clean Water Laboratory is home base to over 30 graduate students from various disciplines of engineering. 

Water quality analysis

In addition to the classic water quality analytical equipment for basic parameters such as pH, conductivity, oxidation-reduction potential, turbidity and UV/VIS-spectrophotometry, the Clean Water Laboratory also houses several pieces of specialized analytical equipment for chemistry, particle, and microbiological analysis of water. We can also evaluate different treatment methods (membrane technology and coagulation) at the bench-scale.

Analytical Chemistry

The Clean water laboratory analytical chemistry laboratory also houses an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), gas chromatography – tandem mass spectrometer (GC-MS/MS), gas chromatography flame ionization detector/electron capture detector (GC-FID/ECD), total organic carbon and dissolved organic carbon (TOC/DOC) analyzer, ion chromatography (IC), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), size exclusion chromatography (SEC), atomic absorption spectrometer (AA), a Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and a zetameter and nano-zetasizer.


Examples of constituents analyzed

Aqualog fluorescent natural organic matter (humic substances, optically active amino acids)

Metals including Pb, Cu, Fe, Al, Mn, Zn, Sn , As etc.

GC-MS/MS  Pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors; taste and odor compounds
GC-ECD  Trihalomethane (THM) and Haloacetic acid (HAA); nitrogenous disinfection by-products (HANs)

Anions (fluoride, chloride, nitrite, nitrate, sulfate, phosphate, etc)


Naphthalene, acenaphthalene, benzene, trichloroethylene, ethyl benzene


Molecular weight distribution of natural organic matter (NOM) in water


Oil and grease


potential analyzer (Zetameter) Particle charge, particle size distribution



The level-2 microbiology lab is housed within the Clean Water Laboratory and is equipped to perform standard water microbiology analysis such as culture-based growth analysis, defined substrate utilization (ex. Colilert),  enzyme utilization, and live-dead staining using epifluorescence microscopy.  The microbiology is equipped with incubators, fridges, Freezers (both standard and low-temp) and a Class A2 biosafety cabinet. Bench-scale distribution system biofilm studies have relied on the use of the twelve annular reactors owned by the Clean Water Laboratory.  An autoclave is contained in a separate room and is used to sterilize equipment and treat biohazardous waste prior to secure disposal. 

The microbiology lab also houses equipment for advanced molecular biology techniques such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) in order to amplify and enumerate the individual genes present in a sample, and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) to evaluate the community structure of biofilms. 

Past work has primarily focused on the evaluation of the effects of treatment on drinking water biofilms and free bacteria using traditional methods (Murphy et al., 2008; Gagnon et al., 2005 ) as well as molecular methods (Burger et al., 2008). 

Treatment technologies optimization

Bench-scale coagulation optimization studies have been conducted using one of our four jar testers for coagulation studies or in sequence with our bench-scale ultrafiltration  and nanofiltration units.   In the past, coagulation studies have examined coagulant optimization for pre-treatment prior to membrane treatment  (Walsh et al., 2011; Walsh et al., 2009).  Studies have also been conducted to improve our understanding of fouling on nanofiltration membranes (Lamsal et al., 2012), as well as the application of UV and ozone pre-treatments to remove natural organic matter (Lamsal et al., 2011).

Architectural Interest

The Clean Water Laboratory is filled with natural light during the day, which is complimented by the light pine finish cabinets. The Clean Water Laboratory was also designed to create natural meeting and mustering points within the lab, where students can set up laptops or set down lab books and chat. We also have a separate meeting room, which can be used for teleconferences, presentations, or lunch meetings.

Laboratory Management

The Clean Water Laboratory is managed by Heather Daurie, a chemist by training. Heather came to the Clean Water Laboratory in 2006 after several years working in a commercial analytical laboratory. Heather operates and maintains much of the analytical equipment in the Clean Water Laboratory for the routine/high volume analysis, and she also trains graduate students to operate analytical chemistry equipment.  Heather provides invaluable support for graduate student research as well as visiting researchers.



For more information, please contact (

Clean Water Laboratory
Dalhousie University
Civil and Resource Engineering
1360 Barrington Street, Room N201
PO Box 15000
Halifax, NS  B3H 4R2

Telephone: 1.902.494.3902
Fax: 1.902.494.8992