Evaluation of specific ultraviolet absorbance as an indicator of the chemical composition and reactivity of dissolved organic carbon

Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Oct 15;37(20):4702-8. doi: 10.1021/es030360x.


Specific UV absorbance (SUVA) is defined as the UV absorbance of a water sample at a given wavelength normalized for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration. Our data indicate that SUVA, determined at 254 nm, is strongly correlated with percent aromaticity as determined by 13C NMR for 13 organic matter isolates obtained from a variety of aquatic environments. SUVA, therefore, is shown to be a useful parameter for estimating the dissolved aromatic carbon content in aquatic systems. Experiments involving the reactivity of DOC with chlorine and tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH), however, show a wide range of reactivity for samples with similar SUVA values. These results indicate that, while SUVA measurements are good predictors of general chemical characteristics of DOC, they do not provide information about reactivity of DOC derived from different types of source materials. Sample pH, nitrate, and iron were found to influence SUVA measurements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Photochemistry
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Water Pollutants*


  • Organic Chemicals
  • Water Pollutants
  • Iron