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The NLS was originally part of the National Rivers Authority and became a single entity in 1993. Today the NLS operates as a business unit of the Environment Agency and is based at four facilities located in Exeter, Nottingham, Reading and Leeds, each one specialising in specific areas of environmental detection and analysis. These include field instrumentation and detection, alongside traditional laboratory analysis.

Being part of the Environment Agency has meant the NLS’s heritage and the contribution it has made to the work of the Agency in terms of “creating a better place”, typically attracts customers from industry, who themselves have very strong environmental credentials.