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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > Sulfate and Sodium Levels
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Old 11-18-2011, 07:53 PM   #1
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Default Sulfate and Sodium Levels

Is it possible to estimate the sulfate and sodium levels in water?

I got a water report from the water authority however it doesn't have the levels of sulfate and sodium. It does have the level of salinity.

By knowing the salinity of the water can I make an assumption regarding the level of sulfates and sodium?

These are the numbers I got from my report.

Total Alkalinity - 141.82 mg/lt CaCO3
Total Hardness - 400 mg/lt CaCO3

Calcium - 157.11 mg/lt Ca++
Magnesium - 1.94 mg/lt Mg++
Chlorides - 124.96 mg/lt
Conductivity - 914 uS/cm
Total Dissolved Solids - 429 mg/lt
Salinity - 0.2%

I realize there are quite a few post already on understanding water reports, however I couldn't seem to find what I was looking for. If this has already been asked and answered, please point me in the right direction.

Thanks
Zac

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Old 11-18-2011, 10:06 PM   #2
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No, I'm afraid not and, unfortunately, there are no simple (read involving inexpensive equipment) tests to measure either. So your best bet is to send $25 to an outfit that has the expensive equipment (Ward Labs or another lab) and let them do the measurement for you. OTOH the water authority very likely measures both of those. Perhaps a little persistence with them on the phone might get the answer.

One might be tempted to estimate the sodium from the salinity but I suspect that this number is derived, as is the TDS, from a conductivity measurement. This also might be something to ask the supplier about.

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Old 11-18-2011, 10:14 PM   #3
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Thanks. Will try my luck with the Water Authority first. As I live in Peru sending a sample up to Ward Labs isn't really an option.

Based on the above report I am looking at getting an RO filter as the hardness is way up there.

Zac

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Old 11-18-2011, 10:59 PM   #4
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No, guess not. Didn't see that.

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Old 11-19-2011, 03:18 PM   #5
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OK, there is some conflicting data in the OP's post. Fortunately, there is some coordinated data too.

The likely water profile is:

Ca: 157 ppm
Mg: 2 ppm
Na: 0 ppm
HCO3: 172 ppm
SO4: 80 ppm
Cl: 125 ppm

The salinity refers to all ionic salts in the solution, not sodium. I'm pretty sure that AJ knows that and was just dozing. The total dissolved solids (TDS) from the profile above is 536 ppm, which differs markedly from the 429 ppm quoted. The conductivity equates to a TDS of about 585 ppm, so I'm pretty sure that the quoted TDS is wrong.

The sodium value is an estimate since there is not enough data on which to base an accurate assessment. If the TDS based on the conductivity (585) is to be believed, then the sodium is about 20 ppm and the sulfate jumps to 120 ppm.

Not really a great brewing water under most situations.

AJ: I believe you didn't notice that Zac was from Peru because his original location information header did not say Peru, it only said Cusco if I remember correctly. Yet another reason why members on this forum should be a little more forthcoming with information.

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Old 11-19-2011, 06:14 PM   #6
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Thanks Martin. I will post a scan of the orignal report on Monday, I have it in the office. However it is in Spanish.

I realize with the water isn't great for brewing and am looking at RO filter to fix that. With hard water like this, would it be worth running it through a water softener before the RO filter?

AJ: Sorry about the confusion with my location. I have updated this to avoid this in the future. I appreciate all the help. Thanks!

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Old 11-19-2011, 06:18 PM   #7
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Look at your water authority website and try to find a phone number for their (bio)chemist. If that's not on there, call the operator and try to get a hold of the chemist that way. Ask him/her if they record "secondary standards" and they can email the report to you.

The chemist at my water authority was super nice and I had the report within 5 minutes of me calling him. He even called back to make sure I got it and to tell me they do testing about every six months.

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Old 11-19-2011, 11:18 PM   #8
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Pretreatment with an ion-exchange water softener will greatly extend the life of a RO system. I do that now. It does mean that the sodium concentration in the product water will be very slightly elevated, but not enough to be concerned with. The RO water profile shown in Bru'n Water represents a typical profile after water softener pretreatment (8 ppm Na).

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Old 11-20-2011, 06:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post

The salinity refers to all ionic salts in the solution, not sodium.
Actually it refers to all the dissolved matter with the organics oxidized, the carbonate and bicarbonate converted to oxide the bromide and iodide replaced by equivalent amounts of chloride. IOW it's pretty complicated and difficult to measure directly and that's why it is almost universally measured (estimated) through conductivity. Wherein lies the rub.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
I'm pretty sure that AJ knows that and was just dozing.
No, not dozing this time. As I said in the earlier post, I suspect that the TDS and salinity numbers were derived from the given conductivity measurement as salinity is almost never measured any other way and it is common practice to "measure" TDS with a conductivity meter. I have one in my RO unit. It measures conductivity and displays it as the mg/L sodium chloride which has that same conductivity.

The OP has a conductivity of 914 uS/cm. The art here is in determining how to process that number. If you are an oceanographer you want salinity and so divide the conductivity reading by the conductivity of a standard potassium chloride solution and insert the ratio into a fairly elaborate polynomial. That process is only valid down to S =2 but there is a correction which lets you go lower - another polynomial.

If you aren't an oceanographer you have lots of options, one of which is to use the extended polynomial or to do what most do and that is take half the conductivity and call it the TDS ; here 457. Whether this is an accurate measurement of the TDS depends on the water ion profile. Conductivity is proportional to the amount of ions dissolved but also to their mobilities.
Note OP's posted value of 429 which is pretty close but not equal to half his posted conductivity. Thus suggests that the lab may use a sligthly different factor based on familiarity with their water.

Another approach is to convert the conductivity reading to the amount of sodium chloride that has the same conductivity as is done in the meter on my RO unit. A 1000 uS/cm NaCl solution contains 491 mg/L NaCl so that a 914 uS/cm solution would contain about 448 mg/L NaCl. Again pretty close to the reported TDS with the disparity possibly explained by the fact that the three ways of processing the conductivity reading are by no means the only ways. Most conductivity meters give the user the option of inserting his own calibration constants and have programmed within them one or more of these methods in which the user can change the coefficients dependent on his particular application.

Now what apparently does not compute here is the salinity listed as 0.2%. But though OP wrote 0.2 % (percent) he meant to write 0.2 permil. The permil sign looks like a percent sign except that there are 2 0's to the right of the slash (0/00 not 0/0) (Per mil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). If I stick my conductivity probe in 1000 uS/cm standard and put it in salinity mode it reads 0.5 per mil consistent with the common practice of calling TDS 0.5 times the conductivity - unless I change the meter's factor. If I stick the 914 uS/cm number into the practical salinity formula (the one that compares conductivity to a standard KCl solution) I can only get down to 0.2 permil if I use a temperature close to 0 °C. At 20 C I get 0.41 per mil - close to the value assumed by taking one half.

It is because of all this variability that I suggested that a conversation with the lab might be of some help.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
The sodium value is an estimate since there is not enough data on which to base an accurate assessment.
As the TDS and salinity numbers (which latter is inconsistent with the conductivity) depend only on the conductivity and some unknown model connecting conductivity to TDS I don't see how any conclusion, other than a crude bound, could be drawn concerning the sodium level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
AJ: I believe you didn't notice that Zac was from Peru ..
True, I was dozing there.
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Old 11-21-2011, 04:03 PM   #10
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Ok here is the water report I got from my water authority here in Cusco (Peru).
Water Report

AJ, the Salinity reading still looks like a "%" to me not permil symbol. I will try and contact the water authority to get the sulfate and sodium levels today, but I am not holding my breath. Either way I think I am going to have to look into water treatment options.

Thanks
Zac

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