The Institute for Groundwater Studies (IGS) at the University of the Free State (UFS) is the leading groundwater research group in Africa on aspects related to fractured rock aquifers, industrial and mining contamination, groundwater governance, and groundwater resources.
In the more than four decades they have been in operation, the institute has participated in research projects for, among others, the Water Research Commission, the Coaltech Research Association, and the government. Technologies developed through these projects are now being used worldwide.
Demonstrating technical competency
Besides their advanced work in groundwater research, the IGS water research laboratory also recently obtained ISO 17025 accreditation from the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) for all methods used in the IGS. This accreditation indicates that they adhere to all the conditions and requirements as stipulated by this body via the international standard.
ISO 17025 is complementary to the generic quality management system standard ISO 9001. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), based in Switzerland, created the industrial standards. ISO 9001, a quality management system used in all industries – small and large – is by far the most successful and most widely recognised standard.
“Therefore, if laboratories comply with ISO 17025 requirements, they will operate a quality management system that also meets the principles of ISO 9001,” says Dr Lore-Mari Deysel, Deputy Director in the institute.
In 2016, SANAS accredited the laboratory for its microbiological methods. Five years later, the SANAS certificate of accreditation states: Chemical and microbiological testing. “The IGS laboratory obtained accreditation for its chemical methods while retaining the part for its microbiological methods. The accreditation thus demonstrates that the IGS laboratory has technical competency in the scope of both microbiological and chemical analysis and the operation of a quality management system,” explains Dr Deysel.
Adhering to internationally recognised standards
Accreditation is also beneficial by promoting the laboratory for trading purposes. “With accreditation from SANAS, we prove to our clients that we adhere to and are functioning in accordance with the internationally recognised standard for testing laboratories. It also means that the results we deliver as a laboratory are accurate, reliable, consistent, and traceable, and as such enhance our clients’ acceptance of these results. Accreditation by SANAS furthermore promotes the global acceptance of results generated in our laboratory,” she states.
“Results provided by an accredited laboratory will also stand in court,” Dr Deysel adds.
With this accreditation, the IGS laboratory is setting itself apart from its competitors and will continue with its contract research on water-related topics in the mining and industrial sectors.
SANAS is the only national body in South Africa responsible for conducting audits and awarding accreditation to ensure that testing facilities such as the IGS laboratory adhere to ISO 17025 requirements. SANAS operates in accordance with the requirements, criteria, rules, and regulations of the Accreditation for Conformity Assessment, Calibration and Good Laboratory Practice Act (Act 19 of 2006) and ISO/IEC 17011:2017.