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February 26, 2018

1. Mixing Water
Water is a key ingredient in concrete, that when mixed with portland cement,
forms a paste that binds the aggregates together. Water causes the hardening of concrete
through hydration. Hydration is a chemical reaction between cement and water to form
cementitious hydration products. Water needs to be of suitable quality for use in concrete
as to not adversely impact the potential properties of concrete. Almost any water that is
drinkable and has no pronounced taste or odor, also known as potable water, can be used
as mixing water in concrete.

2. Quality of Water
The quality of the water plays an important role in the preparation of concrete.
 Impurities in water may interfere with the setting of the cement and may adversely
affect the strength and durability of the concrete
 The chemical constituents present in water may actively participate in the chemical
reactions and thus affect the setting, hardening and strength development of concrete.

3. Testing of Water
Testing of water play an important role in controlling the quality of cement
concrete work. Systematic testing of the water helps to achieve higher efficiency of cement
concrete and greater assurance of the performance in regard to both strength and

Some waters that are not fit for drinking may be suitable for concrete making
provided that they satisfy the acceptance criteria laid by ASTM C 94 (Tables 3.1)

Table 1. Acceptance Criteria for Questionable Water Supplies

3.1 Tests required for quality of water for Concrete construction purpose:

1. pH Value Test
2. Limits of acidity Test
3. Limits of Alkalinity Test
4. Percentage of Solids
5. Chlorides
6. Suspended Matter
7. Sulphates
8. Inorganic Solids
9. Organic Solids

3.2 Requirements for Testing

Water from each source shall be got tested before the commencement of work
and thereafter once in every three months till the completion of the work. Water from
municipal source need to be tested only once in six months. Number of tests for each
source shall be three.

3.3 Recommended Limits of construction water tests:

Water used for mixing and curing shall be clean and free from injurious
quantities of alkalies, acids, oils , salts, sugar, organic materials, vegetable growth or
other substance that may be deleterious to bricks, stone, concrete or steel. Potable
water is generally considered satisfactory for mixing.

The pH value of water shall not be less than the following concentrations
represent the maximum permissible values (of deleterious materials in water):

a) Limits of acidity: To neutralize 100ml sample of water, using phenolphthalein as an

indicator, it should not require more than 5ml of 0.02 normal NaOH. The details of test
shall be as given in IS 3025 (Para 22).
b) Limits of alkalinity: To neutralize 100ml sample of water, using mixed indicator, it
should not require more than 25ml of 0.02 normal H2SO4. The details of tests shall be
as given in IS 3025 (Para 23).
c) Percentage of solids: Maximum permissible limits of solids when tested in
accordance with IS 3025 shall be as under:

Table 2. Limits in each type of solids found in Mixing Water
Types of solids Limits
Organic solids 200 mg/liter
Inorganic solids 3000 mg/liter
Sulphates 400 mg/liter
2000 mg/liter for concrete not containing
Chlorides embedded steel, and
500 mg/liter for reinforced concrete work
Suspended matter 2000 mg/liter

4. Determination of Suitability of Mixing Water

A simple way of determining the suitability of such water is to compare the setting time of
cement and the strength of mortar cubes using the water in question with the corresponding
results obtained using known suitable or distilled water. About 10% tolerance is generally

5. Sources of Mixing Water

Municipal Water Supply
Municipal water supply systems get their water from a variety of locations
including; aquifers, lakes and rivers, and the sea through desalination. Six typical analyses of
city water supplies and seawater are shown in in this table. These waters approximate the
composition of domestic water supplies for most of the cities in the Philippines. Water from
any of these sources is suitable for use in concrete.

Table 3. Chemicals Found in Mixing Water

Municipal Reclaimed Water
Reclaimed water is wastewater treated to remove solids and certain impurities. It is
typically used for nonpotable applications uses such as irrigation, dust control, fire
suppression, concrete production, and construction.

Site-Sourced Water
Many large concrete paving projects and remote construction sites use site source
water either from shallow wells, ponds, or rivers. These natural sources of water are typically
not a concern. When they contain significant amounts of suspended particles such as silt and
contain organic impurities and algae, additional testing is warranted.

Recycled Water from Concrete Production

Recycled water from concrete production is primarily a mixture of: water, partially or
completely hydrated cementitious materials, and aggregate fines resulting from processing
returned concrete. Recycled water and can include truck wash water, and storm water at the
concrete plant. Most of this water is recirculated to keep equipment clean.

6. Organic Impurities
Small amount of sucrose, as little as 0.03% to 0.15% by mass of cement, usually retard
the setting of cement. The upper limit of this range varies with the different cements.
Allowable amount of Sugar should be <500 ppm.

Silt or Suspended particles

About 2000 ppm of suspended clay or fine rock particles can be tolerated in mixing
water. Higher amounts might not affect strength but may influence other properties of some
concrete mixtures.

Various kinds of oil are occasionally present in mixing water. Mineral oil (petroleum)
not mixed with animal or vegetable oils probably has less effect on strength development that
other oils. However, mineral oil in concentrations greater than 2.5% by mass of cement may
reduce strength by more than 20%.

Water containing algae is unsuited for making concrete because the algae can cause
an excessive reduction in strength. Algae in water leads to lower strengths either by
influencing cement hydration or by causing a large amount of air to be entrained in the

Alkali Carbonate and Bicarbonate

 Carbonates and Bicarbonates of sodium and potassium have different effects on the
setting times of different cements.

 Sodium carbonate can cause very rapid setting, bicarbonates can either accelerate or
retard the set.

 In large concentrations, these salts can materially reduce concrete strength


 Concern over a high chloride content in mixing water is chiefly due to the possible
adverse effect of chloride ions on the corrosion of reinforcing steel or prestressing

 An acceptable limit of chloride in the concrete depends primarily upon the type of
structure and the environment to which it is exposed during its service life.

The ACI 318 building code limits water soluble chloride ion content in reinforced concrete to
the following percentages by mass of cement:
Prestressed concrete 0.06 %
Reinforced concrete exposed to chloride in surface 0.15 %
Reinforced concrete that will be dry or protected from moisture in service 1.00 %
Other reinforced concrete construction 0.30 %

Concern over a high sulfate content in mix water is due to possible expansive reactions
and deterioration by sulfate attack, especially in areas where the concrete will be exposed to
high sulfate soils or water.

Other common salts

 Carbonates of calcium and magnesium

This are not very soluble in water and are seldom found in sufficient concentration to
affect the strength of concrete.

 Bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium

Concentrations up to 400 ppm of bicarbonates in these forms are not considered harmful.

 Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium Sulfate and magnesium chloride can be present in high concentrations

without harmful effects on strength. Good strengths have been obtained using water with
concentrations up to 40,000 ppm of magnesium chloride. Concentrations of magnesium
sulfate should be less than 25,000 ppm.

 Magnesium Chloride

Iron Salts
Natural ground waters seldom contain more than 20 to 30 ppm of iron; however, acid
mine waters may carry rather large quantities. Iron salts in concentration up to 40,000 ppm
do not usually affect concrete strengths adversely.

Miscellaneous Inorganic Salts

 Salts of manganese, tin, zinc, copper and lead

 Sodium Iodate, Sodium phosphate, Sodium arsenate and Sodium Borate

Concentrations of these salts up to 500 ppm can be tolerated in mixing water.

 Sodium Sulfide

Even the presence of 100 ppm, warrants testing. Concern over a high sulfate content in mix
water is due to possible expansive reactions and deterioration by sulfate attack. Although
mixing waters containing 10,000 ppm of sodium sulfate have been used satisfactorily, the
limit in ASTM C1602, 3000 ppm, should be considered unless special precautions in the
composition of the concrete mixture are taken.

7. Interaction with Admixtures

When evaluating waters for their effect on concrete properties, it is important to also test
the water with chemical admixtures that will be used in the job concrete. Certain compounds
in water can influence the performance and efficiency of certain admixtures.

8. Effects of Impurities in Mixing Water

Excessive impurities in mixing water not only may affect setting time and concrete
strength, but also may cause efflorescence, staining, corrosion of reinforcement, volume
instability, and reduced durability. Some impurities may have little effect on strength and
setting time, yet adversely affect durability and other properties.

Table 5. Effects of Impurities in Mixing Water

9. Use of Questionable Waters as Mixing Water
Sea Water
Seawater containing up to 35,000 parts per million of dissolved salts is generally
suitable as mixing water for concrete not containing reinforcing steel. Seawater is not
suitable for use in production of concrete with steel reinforcement and likewise, it should
not be used in prestressed concrete due to the risk of corrosion of the reinforcement.

Acid Waters
 Acid waters may be accepted as mixing water on the basis of their pH values.

 Use of acid waters with pH values less than 3.0 should be avoided.

 Organic acids, such as tannic acid can have significant effect on strength at higher

 In terms of pH value, the water that has a pH value greater than 6 can be employed
for the concrete construction.

Alkaline Waters
 Waters with sodium hydroxide concentrations up to 0.5 % and potassium hydroxide
in concentrations up to 1.2 % by weight of cement has no significant effect on

 The possibility for increased alkali-aggregate reactivity should be considered before

using the alkaline water as mixing water.

 Tannic acid can have significant effect on strength at higher concentrations.

Industrial Waste Waters

 Industrial wastewaters may be used as mixing water in concrete as long as they only
cause a very small reduction in compressive strength, generally not greater than 10 %
to 15 %.

 Wastewaters from paint factories, coke plants, and chemical and galvanizing plants
may contain harmful impurities. Thus, such wastewaters should not be used as mixing
water without testing.

Sanitary Sewage

The sanitary sewage may be safely used as mixing water after treatment or dilution of
the organic matter.

Wash Water
Water carried on a truck mixer in a special tank for flushing the in interior of the mixer
after discharge of the concrete. It is common practice in the ready mixed concrete industry to

thoroughly clean the inside of a concrete truck’s drum at the end of the day using
approximately 150 to 300 gallons of water and this water used for flushing the mixer is called
wash water.

Table 5. ASTM C94

10. Curing Water

Water satisfactory for mixing is also suitable for curing purposes. Iron or organic
matter may cause straining, particularly if water flows slowly over concrete and evaporates
rapidly. In some cases, discoloration is of no significance and any water suitable for mixing
or even slightly inferior in quality is acceptable for curing. It is essential that curing water be
free from substances that attack hardened concrete, this topic is discussed further in Chapter
14. Curing with sea water may lead to attack of reinforcement.

Table 6. Limits of Impurities in Mixing Water


[1] Test for Water Quality for Concrete Construction and Recommended Limits. Retrieved
[2] Mixing Water for Concrete.pptx. Retrieved from:
mixing water
[3] Chapter 3: Mixing Water for concrete. pdf. Retrieved from:
[4] ACI 318M-08, ―Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete and Commentary.
Retrieved from:
for_Structural_Concrete_(ACI_318M 08)_And_Commentary.pdf
[5] Test for Water Quality. Retrieved from: