Comparison of electrical conductivity calculation methods for natural waters

R. Blaine McCleskey, D. Kirk Nordstrom, Joseph N. Ryan

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 10:952-967 (2012) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2012.10.952

ABSTRACT: The capability of eleven methods to calculate the electrical conductivity of a wide range of natural waters from their chemical composition was investigated. A brief summary of each method is presented including equations to calculate the conductivities of individual ions, the ions incorporated, and the method's limitations. The ability of each method to reliably predict the conductivity depends on the ions included, effective accounting of ion pairing, and the accuracy of the equation used to estimate the ionic conductivities. The performances of the methods were evaluated by calculating the conductivity of 33 environmentally important electrolyte solutions, 41 U.S. Geological Survey standard reference water samples, and 1593 natural water samples. The natural waters tested include acid mine waters, geothermal waters, seawater, dilute mountain waters, and river water impacted by municipal waste water. The three most recent conductivity methods predict the conductivity of natural waters better than other methods. Two of the recent methods can be used to reliably calculate the conductivity for samples with pH values greater than about 3 and temperatures between 0 and 40°C. One method is applicable to a variety of natural water types with a range of pH from 1 to 10, temperature from 0 to 95°C, and ionic strength up to 1 m.