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Conductivity, Salinity & Total Dissolved Solids

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Chapter Overview
1.
What is Conductivity?
Conductivity Units
Specific Conductance
Resistivity
Conductance
2.
What is Salinity?
Absolute Salinity
Salinity Units
3.
What are Total Dissolved Solids?
TDS Units
4.
Why is Conductivity Important?
Aquatic Organism Tolerance
Change Indicates Pollution
Ocean Convection
5.
Where do TDS and Salinity Come From?
Freshwater Conductivity Sources
Saltwater Conductivity Sources
6.
When does Conductivity Fluctuate?
Temperature
Water Flow
Water Level
Stratification
7.
Typical Levels
Deionized Water
Consequences of Unusual Levels
8.
Measurement Methods
9.
Conductivity and Salinity Meters
10. Conductivity Sensors
11. Applications

What is Conductivity?
Conductivity is a measure of waters capability to pass electrical flow. This ability is
directly related to the concentration of ions in the water . These conductive ions come
from dissolved salts and inorganic materials such as alkalis, chlorides, sulfides and
carbonate compounds . Compounds that dissolve into ions are also known as
electrolytes . The more ions that are present, the higher the conductivity of water.
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Likewise, the fewer ions that are in the water, the less conductive it is. Distilled or
deionized water can act as an insulator due to its very low (if not negligible)
conductivity value . Sea water, on the other hand, has a very high conductivity.
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Salts dissolve in water to produce an anion and a cation. These ions make up the basis of conductivity
in water.

Ions conduct electricity due to their positive and negative charges . When electrolytes
dissolve in water, they split into positively charged (cation) and negatively charged
(anion) particles. As the dissolved substances split in water, the concentrations of each
positive and negative charge remain equal. This means that even though the
conductivity of water increases with added ions, it remains electrically neutral .
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Conductivity Units
Conductivity is usually measured in micro- or millisiemens per centimeter (uS/cm or
mS/cm). It can also be reported in micromhos or millimhos/centimeter (umhos/cm or
mmhos/cm), though these units are less common. One siemen is equal to one mho .
Microsiemens per centimeter is the standard unit for freshwater measurements. Reports
on seawater conductivity use micro-, milli- and and sometimes even just siemen/mho
per centimeter, depending on the publication.
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Specific Conductance

Specific conductance at 25 degrees C is used as a standard of comparison for different water sources
as conductivity ratios change with temperature.

Specific conductance is a conductivity measurement made at or corrected to 25 C .


This is the standardized method of reporting conductivity. As the temperature of water
will affect conductivity readings, reporting conductivity at 25 C allows data to be easily
compared . Specific conductance is usually reported in uS/cm at 25 C .
If a conductivity measurement is made at 25 C, it can simply be reported as the
specific conductance. If a measurement is made at a different temperature and
corrected to 25 C, then the temperature coefficient must be considered. The specific
conductance temperature coefficient can range depending on the measured
temperature and ionic composition of the water . A coefficient of 0.0191-0.02 is
commonly used based on KCl standards . NaCl-based solutions should have a
temperature coefficient of 0.02-0.0214 .
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Resistivity

Conductivity is formally defined as the


reciprocal of resistivity, which is worth elaborating on . Resistivity is a measurement of
waters opposition to the flow of a current over distance. Pure water has a resistance of
18.2 Mohm*cm . Resistivity decreases as the ionic concentration in water increases. A
fun way to remember that resistivity and conductivity are reciprocals (1/measurement)
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is in the unit name mho and ohm are the same letters, in reverse.

Conductance
Conductance is part of conductivity, but it is not a specific measurement on its own.
Electrical conductance is dependent on the length of the conductor, just as resistance
is . Conductance is measured in mhos or siemens . Conductivity is the conductance (S)
measured across a specified distance (1 cm), which is incorporated into the units
(S/cm) . As such, the conductance of water will change with the distance specified. But
as long as the temperature and composition remains the same, the conductivity of
water will not change.
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What is Salinity?
Salinity is an ambiguous term. As a basic definition, salinity is the total concentration of
all dissolved salts in water . These electrolytes form ionic particles as they dissolve,
each with a positive and negative charge. As such, salinity is a strong contributor to
conductivity. While salinity can be measured by a complete chemical analysis, this
method is difficult and time consuming . Seawater cannot simply be evaporated to a
dry salt mass measurement as chlorides are lost during the process .
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The most common ions in sea water.

More often, salinity is not measured directly, but is instead derived from the
conductivity measurement . This is known as practical salinity. These derivations
compare the specific conductance of the sample to a salinity standard such as
seawater . Salinity measurements based on conductivity values are unitless, but are
often followed by the notation of practical salinity units (psu) .
There are many different dissolved salts that contribute to the salinity of water. The
major ions in seawater (with a practical salinity of 35) are: chloride, sodium,
magnesium, sulfate, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate and bromine . Many of these ions
are also present in freshwater sources, but in much smaller amounts . The ionic
compositions of inland water sources are dependent on the surrounding environment.
Most lakes and rivers have alkali and alkaline earth metal salts, with calcium,
magnesium, sodium, carbonates and chlorides making up a high percentage of the ionic
composition . Freshwater usually has a higher bicarbonate ratio while seawater has
greater sodium and chloride concentrations .
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Absolute Salinity

The Gibbs function is the basis of calculating absolute salinity. It considers the entire system as a
whole instead of relying solely on conductivity.

While the Practical Salinity Scale is acceptable in most situations, a new method of
salinity measurement was adopted in 2010. This method, called TEOS-10, determines
absolute salinity as opposed to the practical salinity derived from conductivity. Absolute
salinity provides an accurate and consistent representation of the thermodynamic state
of the system . Absolute salinity is both more accurate and more precise than practical
salinity and can be used to estimate salinity not only across the ocean, but at greater
depths and temperature ranges . TEOS-10 is derived from a Gibbs function, which
requires more complex calculations, but offers more useful information .
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Salinity Units
The units used to measure salinity fluctuate based on application and reporting
procedure. Parts per thousand or grams/kilogram (1 ppt = 1 g/kg) used to be the
standard . In some freshwater sources, this is reported in mg/L . Now salinity values
are reported based on the unitless Practical Salinity Scale (sometimes denoted in
practical salinity units as psu) . As of 2010, an Absolute Salinity calculation was
developed, but is not used for database archives . Absolute salinity is reported in g/kg
and is denoted by the symbol S . TEOS-10 offers pre-programmed equations to calculate
absolute salinity.
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The different methods and units of salinity measurements all rely on a reference point of 35 for
seawater.

The units psu, ppt and S g/kg are nearly equivalent (and often interchanged) . All three
methods are based on an approximate salinity value of 35 in seawater . However, there
are some distinctions that must be made.
Practical salinity units are dimensionless and are based on conductivity studies of
potassium chloride solutions and seawater . These studies were done with 32.4356
g/kg KCL solution and Copenhagen water which has a chlorinity of 19.374 ppt . This
north Atlantic sea water was given a set practical salinity of 35 psu . The practical
salinity scale is considered accurate for values between 2 and 42 psu . These are the
most common units used, and practical salinity remains the most common salinity value
stored for data archives .
The historical definition of salinity was based on chloride concentration (which could be
determined by titration) . This calculation used the following equation:
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Determining total salinity based on chloride concentrations in only accurate in water sources with a
known chloride-salinity ratio, such as seawater.

This method is only acceptable for seawater, as it is limited in estuaries, brackish and
freshwater sources . While salinity and chlorinity are proportional in seawater,
equations based on this are not accurate in freshwater or when chlorinity ratios
change .
Absolute salinity in g/kg is best for studies that require very precise data. It is consistent
with other SI units as a true mass fraction, and it ensures that all thermodynamic
relationships (density, sound, speed and heat capacity) remain consistent . These units
also help determine specific ions contributions to salinity values . Absolute salinity also
offers a greater range and more accurate values than other salinity methods when ionic
composition is known .
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What are Total Dissolved Solids?

The EPA, USPHS and AWWA recommend an upper limit of 500 mg/L TDS, though this is exceeded in
some regions with little ill effect .
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Total dissolved solids (TDS) combine the sum of all ion particles that are smaller than 2
microns (0.0002 cm) . This includes all of the disassociated electrolytes that make up
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salinity concentrations, as well as other compounds such as dissolved organic matter. In


clean water, TDS is approximately equal to salinity . In wastewater or polluted areas,
TDS can include organic solutes (such as hydrocarbons and urea) in addition to the salt
ions .
While TDS measurements are derived from conductivity, some states, regions and
agencies often set a TDS maximum instead of a conductivity limit for water quality . At
most, freshwater can have 2000 mg/L of total dissolved solids, and most sources should
have much less than that . Depending on the ionic properties, excessive total dissolved
solids can produce toxic effects on fish and fish eggs. Salmonids exposed to higher than
average levels of CaSO4 at various life stages experienced reduced survival and
reproduction rates . When total dissolved solids ranged above 2200-3600 mg/L,
salmonids, perch and pike all showed reduced hatching and egg survival rates .
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Total dissolved solids concentrations outside of a normal range can cause a cell to swell or shrink. This
can negatively impact aquatic life that cannot compensate for the change in water retention.

Dissolved solids are also important to aquatic life by keeping cell density balanced . In
distilled or deionized water, water will flow into an organisms cells, causing them to
swell . In water with a very high TDS concentration, cells will shrink. These changes can
affect an organisms ability to move in a water column, causing it to float or sink beyond
its normal range .
TDS can also affect water taste, and often indicates a high alkalinity or hardness .
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TDS Units
Total dissolved solids are reported in mg/L. TDS can be measured by gravimetry (with an
evaporation dish) or calculated by multiplying a conductivity value by an empirical
factor . While TDS determination by evaporation is more time-consuming, it is useful
when the composition of a water source is not known. Deriving TDS from conductivity is
quicker and suited for both field measurements and continuous monitoring .
When calculating total dissolved solids from a conductivity measurement, a TDS factor
is used. This TDS constant is dependent on the type of solids dissolved in water, and
can be changed depending on the water source. Most conductivity meters and other
measurement options will use a common, approximated constant around 0.65 .
However, when measuring mixed water or saline water (with a conductivity value
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greater than 5000 uS/cm), the TDS constant should be higher: around 0.735 and 0.8
respectively . Likewise, fresh or nearly pure water should have a lower TDS constant
closer to 0.47-0.50 .
Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater accepts a TDS constant
of 0.55-0.7, though if the water source is known to be high in calcium or sulfate ions, a
constant of 0.8 may be used . Several conductivity meters will accept a constant
outside of this range, but it is recommended to reanalyze the sample by evaporation to
confirm this ratio .
As seen in the table below, solutions with the same conductivity value, but different
ionic constitutions (KCl vs NaCl vs 442) will have different total dissolved solid
concentrations. This is due to the difference in molecular weight . In addition, the ionic
composition will change the recommended TDS constant.
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At the same conductivity value, each solution will have a different concentration of dissolved solids
and thus a different TDS factor.

All three standards are acceptable for conductivity calibrations. However, the ionic
composition should be considered if calculating total dissolved solids. If a project allows
for it, the TDS constant should be determined for each specific site based on known
ionic constituents in the water .
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Why is Conductivity Important?

Factors that affect water volume (like heavy rain or evaporation) affect conductivity. Runoff or flooding
over soils that are high in salts or minerals can cause a spike in conductivity despite the increase in
water flow.

Conductivity, in particular specific conductance, is one of the most useful and commonly
measured water quality parameters . In addition to being the basis of most salinity and
total dissolved solids calculations, conductivity is an early indicator of change in a water
system. Most bodies of water maintain a fairly constant conductivity that can be used as
a baseline of comparison to future measurements . Significant change, whether it is due
to natural flooding, evaporation or man-made pollution can be very detrimental to water
quality.
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Seawater cannot hold as much dissolved oxygen as freshwater due to its high salinity.

Conductivity and salinity have a strong correlation . As conductivity is easier to


measure, it is used in algorithms estimating salinity and TDS, both of which affect water
quality and aquatic life.
Salinity is important in particular as it affects dissolved oxygen solubility . The higher
the salinity level, the lower the dissolved oxygen concentration. Oxygen is about 20%
less soluble in seawater than in freshwater at the same temperature . This means that,
on average, seawater has a lower dissolved oxygen concentration than freshwater
sources. The effect of salinity on the solubility of dissolved gases is due to Henrys Law;
the constant used will changes based on salt ion concentrations .
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Aquatic Organism Tolerance

Euryhaline (including anadromous and catadromous) species have the widest salinity tolerance range
as they travel between both saltwater and freshwater.

Most aquatic organisms can only tolerate a specific salinity range . The physiological
adaption of each species is determined by the salinity of its surrounding environment.
Most species of fish are stenohaline, or exclusively freshwater or exclusively saltwater .
However, there are a few organisms that can adapt to a range of salinities. These
euryhaline organisms can be anadromous, catadromous or true euryhaline. Anadromous
organisms live in saltwater but spawn in freshwater. Catadromous species are the
opposite they live in freshwater and migrate to saltwater to spawn . True euryhaline
species can be found in saltwater or freshwater at any point in their life cycle .
Estuarine organisms are true euryhaline.
Euryhaline species live in or travel through estuaries, where saline zonation is evident.
Salinity levels in an estuary can vary from freshwater to seawater over a short
distance . While euryhaline species can comfortably travel across these zones,
stenohaline organisms cannot and will only be found at one end of the estuary or the
other. Species such as sea stars and sea cucumbers cannot tolerate low salinity levels,
and while coastal, will not be found within many estuaries . Some aquatic organisms
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can even be sensitive to the ionic composition of the water. An influx of a specific salt
can negatively affect a species, regardless of whether the salinity levels remain within
an acceptable range .
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Most aquatic organisms prefer either freshwater or saltwater. Few species traverse between salinity
gradients, and fewer still tolerate daily salinity fluctuations.

Salinity tolerances depend on the osmotic processes within an organism. Fish and other
aquatic life that live in fresh water (low-conductivity) are hyperosmotic . Hyperosmotic
defines a cells ability to eliminate water and retain ions. Thus these organisms maintain
higher internal ionic concentrations than the surrounding water . On the other side of
the spectrum, saltwater (high-conductivity) organisms are hypoosmotic and maintain a
lower internal ionic concentration than seawater. Euryhaline organisms are able to
adapt their bodies to the changing salt levels. Each group of organisms has adapted to
the ionic concentrations of their respective environments, and will absorb or excrete
salts as needed . Altering the conductivity of the environment by increasing or
decreasing salt levels will negatively affect the metabolic abilities of the organisms.
Even altering the type of ion (such as potassium for sodium) can be detrimental to
aquatic life if their biological processes cannot deal with the different ion .
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Conductivity Change can Indicate Pollution

Oil or hydrocarbons can reduce the conductivity of water. (photo credit: Lamiot via Wikimedia
Commons)

A sudden increase or decrease in conductivity in a body of water can indicate pollution.


Agricultural runoff or a sewage leak will increase conductivity due to the additional
chloride, phosphate and nitrate ions . An oil spill or addition of other organic
compounds would decrease conductivity as these elements do not break down into
ions . In both cases, the additional dissolved solids will have a negative impact on
water quality.
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Salinity Contributes to Ocean Convection

Salinitys affect on water density is one of the driving forces behind ocean convection.

Salinity affects water density. The higher the dissolved salt concentration, the higher the
density of water . The increase in density with salt levels is one of the driving forces
behind ocean circulation . When sea ice forms near the polar regions, it does not
include the salt ions. Instead, the water molecules freeze, forcing the salt into pockets of
briny water . This brine eventually drains out of the ice, leaving behind an air pocket
and increasing the salinity of the water surrounding the ice. As this saline water is
denser than the surrounding water, it sinks, creating a convection pattern that can
influence ocean circulation for hundreds of kilometers .
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Where do TDS and Salinity Come From?


Conductivity and salinity vary greatly between different bodies of water. Most
freshwater streams and lakes have low salinity and conductivity values. The oceans
have a high conductivity and salinity due to the high number of the dissolved salts
present.

Freshwater Conductivity Sources

Many different sources can contribute to the total dissolved solids level in water.

In streams and rivers, normal conductivity levels come from the surrounding geology .
Clay soils will contribute to conductivity, while granite bedrock will not . The minerals in
clay will ionize as they dissolve, while granite remains inert. Likewise, groundwater
inflows will contribute to the conductivity of the stream or river depending on the
geology that the groundwater flows through. Groundwater that is heavily ionized from
dissolved minerals will increase the conductivity of the water into which it flows.
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Saltwater Conductivity Sources


Most of the salt in the ocean comes from runoff, sediment and tectonic activity . Rain
contains carbonic acid, which can contribute to rock erosion. As rain flows over rocks
and soil, the minerals and salts are broken down into ions and are carried along,
eventually reaching the ocean . Hydrothermal vents along the bottom of the ocean also
contribute dissolved minerals . As hot water seeps out of the vents, it releases minerals
with it. Submarine volcanoes can spew dissolved minerals and carbon dioxide into the
ocean . The dissolved carbon dioxide can become carbonic acid which can erode rocks
on the surrounding seafloor and add to the salinity. As water evaporates off the surface
of the ocean, the salts from these sources are left behind to accumulate over millions of
years .
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Discharges such as pollution can also contribute to salinity and TDS, as wastewater
effluent increases salt ions and an oil spill increases total dissolved solids .
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When does Conductivity Fluctuate?


Conductivity is dependent on water temperature and salinity/TDS . Water flow and
water level changes can also contribute to conductivity through their impact on salinity.
Water temperature can cause conductivity levels to fluctuate daily. In addition to its
direct effect on conductivity, temperature also influences water density, which leads to
stratification. Stratified water can have different conductivity values at different depths.
Water flow, whether it is from a spring, groundwater, rain, confluence or other sources
can affect the salinity and conductivity of water. Likewise, reductions in flow from dams
or river diversions can also alter conductivity levels . Water level changes, such as tidal
stages and evaporation will cause salinity and conductivity levels to fluctuate as well.
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Conductivity and Temperature

Conductivity is temperature dependent.

When water temperature increases, so will conductivity . For every 1C increase,


conductivity values can increase 2-4% . Temperature affects conductivity by increasing
ionic mobility as well as the solubility of many salts and minerals . This can be seen in
diurnal variations as a body of water warms up due to sunlight, (and conductivity
increases) and then cools down at night (decreasing conductivity).
Due to temperatures direct effect, conductivity is measured at or corrected to a
standardized temperature (usually 25C) for comparability. This standardized reporting
method is called specific conductance .
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Seasonal variations in conductivity, while affected by average temperatures, are also


affected by waterflow. In some rivers, as spring often has the highest flow volume,
conductivity can be lower at that time than in the winter despite the differences in
temperature . In water with little to no inflow, seasonal averages are more dependent
on temperature and evaporation.
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Conductivity and Water Flow


The effect of water flow on conductivity and salinity values is fairly basic. If the inflow is
a freshwater source, it will decrease salinity and conductivity values . Freshwater
sources include springs, snowmelt, clear, clean streams and fresh groundwater . On the
other side of the spectrum, highly mineralized groundwater inflows will increase
conductivity and salinity . Agricultural runoff, in addition to being high in nutrients,
often has a higher concentration of dissolved solids that can influence conductivity .
For both freshwater and mineralized water, the higher the flow volume, the more it will
affect salinity and conductivity .
Rain itself can have a higher conductivity than pure water due to the incorporation of
gases and dust particles . However, heavy rainfall can decrease the conductivity of a
body of water as it dilutes the current salinity concentration .
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Flooding can increase conductivity when it washes salts and minerals from the soil into a water source.

If heavy rainfall or another major weather event contributes to flooding, the effect on
conductivity depends on the water body and surrounding soil. In areas with dry and wet
seasons, conductivity usually drops overall during the wet season due to the dilution of
the water source . Though the overall conductivity is lower for the season, there are
often conductivity spikes as water initially enters a floodplain. If a floodplain contains
nutrient-rich or mineralized soil, previously dry salt ions can enter solution as it is
flooded, raising the conductivity of water .
If coastal water floods, the opposite effect can occur. Though turbidity will increase, the
conductivity of water often decreases during a coastal flood . Seawater will pick up
suspended solids and nutrients from the soil, but can also deposit its salts on land,
decreasing the conductivity of the water .
Dams and river diversions affect conductivity by reducing the natural volume of water
flow to an area. When this flow is diverted, the effect of additional freshwater (lowering
conductivity) is minimized . Areas downstream of a dam or a river diversion will have
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an altered conductivity value due to the lessened inflow .


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Conductivity and Water Level

As water flow fluctuates in an estuary, so will salinity levels.

The conductivity of water due to water level fluctuations is often directly connected to
water flow. Conductivity and salinity fluctuations due to water level changes are most
noticeable in estuaries. As tides rise, saltwater from the ocean is pushed into an
estuary, raising salinity and conductivity values . When the tide falls, the saltwater is
pulled back toward the ocean, lowering conductivity and salinity .
Evaporation can cause salinity concentrations to rise. As the water level lowers, the ions
present become concentrated, contributing to higher conductivity levels . This is why
conductivity and salinity values often increase in summer due to lower flow volume and
evaporation . On the other side of the scale, rain can increase water volume and level,
lowering conductivity .
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Salinity and Stratification


Temperature and salinity levels alter water density, and thus contribute to water column
stratification . Just as a decrease in temperature increases water density, an increase in
salinity will produce the same result. In fact, the change in water density due to a
salinity increase of 1 PSU is equivalent to the density change due to a 4C decrease in
temperature .
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Vertical stratification due to salinity. Deeper water has a greater density and higher salinity than the
surface water.

Stratification can be vertical through the water column (seen in lakes and oceans), or
horizontal, as seen in some estuaries . These strata are separated by an boundary
known as a halocline . The halocline divides layers of water with different salinity
levels . When salinity levels differ by a great amount (often due to a particularly fresh or
saline inflow), a halocline develops . A halocline often coincides with a thermocline
(temperature boundary) and a pycnocline (density boundary) ( . These clines mark the
depth at which water properties (such as salinity, temperature and density) undergo a
sharp change.
Estuaries are unique in that they can have horizontal or vertical haloclines. Vertical
haloclines are present when salinity levels decrease as the water moves into the
estuary from the open ocean . Vertical haloclines often occur when tides are strong
enough to mix the water column vertically for a uniform salinity, but levels differ
between the freshwater and oceanic sides of the estuary .
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Estuaries can stratify horizontally between a freshwater source and the saline ocean.

Horizontal stratification is present in estuaries where tides are weak. The incoming
freshwater from rivers can then float over the denser seawater and little mixing
occurs . Horizontal stratification also exists in the open ocean due to salinity and
temperature gradients.
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The salinity of an inflow can contribute to stratification. Freshwater flowing into saltwater will float,
while saltwater flowing into freshwater will sink.

Haloclines develop in lakes that do not experience a complete turnover. These lakes are
called meromictic lakes and do not mix completely from top to bottom . Instead, they
have lower strata known as a monimolimnion. The monimolimnion remains isolated
from the rest of the water column (mixolimnion) due to the halocline . Meromictic lakes
can develop when a saline inflow (natural or man-made) enters a freshwater lake, or if a
saline lake receives a freshwater inflow . (stratification)
As saline water cannot hold as much dissolved oxygen as freshwater, stratification due
to haloclines can contribute to hypoxic and anoxic conditions at the bottom of a body of
water .
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Typical Conductivity and Salinity Levels


While freshwater sources have a low conductivity and seawater has a high conductivity,
there is no set standard for the conductivity of water. Instead, some organizations and
regions have set limits on total dissolved solids for bodies of water . This is because
conductivity and salinity can differ not only between oceans and freshwater, but even
between neighboring streams. If the surrounding geology is different enough, or if one
source has a separate inflow, conductivity values of neighboring water bodies will not
be the same.
Despite the lack of standards and the effects of the surrounding environment on
conductivity, there are approximate values that can be expected based on source :
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Freshwater has a wide conductivity range due to geology effects. Freshwater that runs
through granite bedrock will have a very low conductivity value . Clay and limestone
soils can contribute to higher conductivity values in freshwater . Some saline lakes
exist due to a restricted outflow . The conductivity of these lakes is dependent on the
specific ionic composition present .
The conductivity of estuaries tends to be the most variable as they are constantly
influenced by freshwater and saltwater flows. The conductivity of seawater is dependent
on the salinity and temperature of the water . Measurements will vary between the
Equator and the poles as well as with depth due to conductivitys dependence on
temperature .
As with conductivity, the expected salinity of a body of water can only be estimated.
Ocean salinity values can vary between 30 and 37 PSU . Despite the differences in
salinity, the ionic composition of seawater remains remarkably constant across the
globe . The surface salinity of the ocean is dependent on rainfall. In areas around the
equator and coast where rainfall is high, surface salinity values are lower than
average . These different salinity values contribute to ocean circulation and global
climate cycles .
The following chart offers approximate salinity values in ppt (parts per thousand) :
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Once a history of conductivity measurements has been conducted, it is easy to see an


established range for a particular body of water . This range can be used as a baseline
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to evaluate measurements as expected (and unexpected) values .


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Deionized Water
It is important to point out that just because deionized water or ultra-pure water has no
extraneous ions, that does not mean that it has a conductivity of 0 uS/cm . The
conductivity value will be very small, and in most situations, negligible, but even
deionized water has H+ and OH- ions present. At room temperature, the concentration
of both H+ ions and OH- ions is 10 M (think pH deionized water will have a neutral
pH of 7 without atmospheric contact) creating a very small conductivity value . Despite
this low conductivity value, deionized water will still have a salinity of zero; there are no
salt ions present, only H+ and OH-, which naturally exist in pure water.
As long as it has not had any contact with air (particularly CO2), deionized water should
have a conductivity of 0.055 uS/cm, or a resistivity of 18 megohms at 25 C . If the
deionized water has equilibrated with air, the conductivity will be closer to 1 uS/cm (1
megohm) at 25 C (and it will have a pH of 5.56). Most standards allow for a
conductivity range of 0.5-3 uS/cm at 25 C for distilled water, depending on the length
of time it has been exposed to air .
Temperature changes will have a greater effect on the conductivity of deionized water
(or any nearly pure water), due to the molar equivalent conductivity of H+ and OH- in
the absence of other ions . Instead of increasing conductivity by 2-3% per degree
Celsius, it may increase by approximately 5% per degree Celsius .
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Consequences of Unusual Levels


Unusual conductivity and salinity levels are usually indicative of pollution . In some
cases, such as excessive rainfall or drought, they can be connected to extreme natural
causes. Regardless of whether the result was caused by manmade or natural sources,
changes in conductivity, salinity and TDS can have an impact on aquatic life and water
quality.
Most aquatic species have adapted to specific salinity levels . Salinity values outside of
a normal range can result in fish kills due to changes in dissolved oxygen
concentrations, osmosis regulation and TDS toxicity
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When conductivity and salinity values extend too far from their usual range, it can be
detrimental to the aquatic life residing in a body of water. This is why fewer, but perhaps
hardier, species have adapted to life in estuaries, where salinity is constantly in flux.
Estuarine life can tolerate rapidly changing salinity levels better than both their
freshwater and marine counterparts . But even these brackish-water species can suffer
if the salinity changes become too extreme.
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