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Isotopic Fingerprinting for Stormwater

In an episode of the #SavingStormwater Podcast, Beta Analytic’s Project Manager for Water Service, Sean Ahearn, talks about solving stormwater management mysteries and how isotopic fingerprinting is a valuable tool in the process.

Mr. Ahearn, a geochemist, shares that his work involves using isotopic data as evidence to fingerprint and track water sources and contaminants found within those sources. He notes that this technology is not new but has been refined over time. Isotopic fingerprinting will help close the data gap so that people can prepare for the inevitability of big storms and a changing climate, he says.

During the podcast, Mr. Ahearn discusses algal blooms trigger and ways to tag water. He explains that there are three ways to gather data about stormwater.

  1. First is by using the water itself.
  2. Second is using the contaminant in the water like nitrates.
  3. And third is using the carbon present in natural waters to understand where the water is coming from and where it is going.

“By measuring the dissolved constituent in water like Nitrate, we can produce models that suggests the amount of contaminant that can be coming into a target area,” Mr. Ahearn explains.

“When we are investigating something like a water source, we can use the apparent age, the age of the carbon found in that water, to suggest about how long this water has been in the surface of the planet, and furthermore, underground. And we can begin to address whether or not this water source is consistently coming from the same place,” he adds.

Mr. Ahearn closes the podcast by saying that there is an urgency to understand water quality issues and a need to understand problems at their source. “Data-driven solutions are going to be our best tool to protect our most valuable resource—water,” he notes. “Chemical and isotopic data is key in saving stormwater.”

Disclaimer: Video is hosted in a third-party site and may contain advertising.

Beta Analytic Services for Water Samples

ISO 17025-accredited Beta Analytic provides high-quality measurements for water samples using an isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS) and an accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS). Results are accessible online 24/7 including sample photos. For water sampling guidance, please contact the lab or email us at

You might also be interested in:
Beta Analytic’s Webinar – An Introduction to Isotopic Analysis
Beta Analytic’s Subsidiary Isobar Science Offers Sr Ratios & U-Th Dating
Boron & its Occurrence in Water

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 and is filed under Beta Analytic Updates, Nitrate Test, Source Tracking in water .