A new method of calculating electrical conductivity with applications to natural waters

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
By: , and 



A new method is presented for calculating the electrical conductivity of natural waters that is accurate over a large range of effective ionic strength (0.0004–0.7 mol kg-1), temperature (0–95 °C), pH (1–10), and conductivity (30–70,000 μS cm-1). The method incorporates a reliable set of equations to calculate the ionic molal conductivities of cations and anions (H+, Li+, Na+, K+, Cs+, NH4+, Mg2+, Ca2+, Sr2+, Ba2+, F-, Cl-, Br-, SO42-, HCO3-, CO32-, NO3-, and OH-), environmentally important trace metals (Al3+, Cu2+, Fe2+, Fe3+, Mn2+, and Zn2+), and ion pairs (HSO4-, NaSO4-, NaCO3-, and KSO4-). These equations are based on new electrical conductivity measurements for electrolytes found in a wide range of natural waters. In addition, the method is coupled to a geochemical speciation model that is used to calculate the speciated concentrations required for accurate conductivity calculations. The method was thoroughly tested by calculating the conductivities of 1593 natural water samples and the mean difference between the calculated and measured conductivities was -0.7 ± 5%. Many of the samples tested were selected to determine the limits of the method and include acid mine waters, geothermal waters, seawater, dilute mountain waters, and river water impacted by municipal waste water. Transport numbers were calculated and H+, Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, NH4+, K+, Cl-, SO42-, HCO3-, CO32-, F-, Al3+, Fe2+, NO3-, and HSO4- substantially contributed (>10%) to the conductivity of at least one of the samples. Conductivity imbalance in conjunction with charge imbalance can be used to identify whether a cation or an anion measurement is likely in error, thereby providing an additional quality assurance/quality control constraint on water analyses.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A new method of calculating electrical conductivity with applications to natural waters
Series title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2011.10.031
Volume 77
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contributing office(s) Branch of Regional Research-Central Region
Description 14 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
First page 369
Last page 382