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Bad water report (unbalanced)? - Ward Labs

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cdochow

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I recently moved to a house with a private well and had Ward Labs test my brewing water. I'm concerned some of the test results may not be accurate because of a 0.8 me/L delta between the reported Cations and Anions:

Water1_20201019.jpg


Bru'n Water and Brewers Friend both report 'unbalanced' errors and I can't find any posts on the forum showing such a big cations/anions difference in a Ward Labs report. Would you trust this report? Should I push back on Ward Labs and ask them to retest? If I can make these numbers work some way I certainly prefer that over having to wait for another report.

For what it's worth the TDS, Arsenic, Iron and Nitrate results are similar to testing done by a local lab before I purchased the house. I was able to get slightly more balanced numbers by manually calculating the bicarbonate and carbonate from pH & alkalinity as 'ajdelange' described in a sticky thread. If it makes a difference I mash with my full volume of brewing water and do not sparge. Thanks for any help!
 
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cdochow

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Dave46382, my water sample was delivered Friday afternoon and I had the results ~7 AM the following Wednesday. I requested several additional tests beyond the standard brewing water test, so that may have required a longer turnaround than usual.
 

Silver_Is_Money

Larry Sayre, Developer of 'Mash Made Easy'
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I'd run with it and ignore the imbalanced messages. Your sulfate is actually 33 ppm (this being a well known quirk of Ward Labs reporting, whereby only the S is measured by them within the SO4 ion). Perhaps that correction alone will drop the flags you are seeing.

When you see "SO4-S" it means "we are reporting only the 'S' portion of SO4".
 
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cdochow

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I'd run with it and ignore the imbalanced messages. Your sulfate is actually 33 ppm (this being a well known quirk of Ward Labs reporting, whereby only the S is measured by them within the SO4 ion). Perhaps that correction alone will drop the flags you are seeing.

When you see "SO4-S" it means "we are reporting only the 'S' portion of SO4".
Thanks for the reply. I've found a few other threads where people say to ignore the errors but none of them had such a big cation/anion imbalance. It's been 20+ years since I was in a chemistry class so I'm a little rusty on how big of deal this is.

For reference here's what I originally had in Bru'n Water.
Screenshot from 2020-10-26 17-02-38.jpg

After manually calculating bicarb & carb based on alkalinity & pH I adjusted bicarbonate down to 98 and carbonate to 0.25. This gets me closer to being balanced but I need to further reduce the anions or increase cations to eliminate the errors.
 

Silver_Is_Money

Larry Sayre, Developer of 'Mash Made Easy'
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Thanks for the reply. I've found a few other threads where people say to ignore the errors but none of them had such a big cation/anion imbalance. It's been 20+ years since I was in a chemistry class so I'm a little rusty on how big of deal this is.

For reference here's what I originally had in Bru'n Water.
View attachment 704112
After manually calculating bicarb & carb based on alkalinity & pH I adjusted bicarbonate down to 98 and carbonate to 0.25. This gets me closer to being balanced but I need to further reduce the anions or increase cations to eliminate the errors.
Why monkey with the numbers? Ward was probably respectfully accurate in their Alkalinity and bicarbonate assessment(s).
 
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cdochow

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Why monkey with the numbers? Ward was probably respectfully accurate in their Alkalinity and bicarbonate assessment(s).
What made me initially concerned was this post regarding the accuracy of Ward Labs test results:

If cations differ from anions by more than 0.5 the test is inaccurate and you should contact Ward Labs
In another post ajdelange explains his understanding of Ward Labs processes (from several years ago though) and offers an alternative way to calculate bicarb & carbonate, so I thought it was worth a try to see if that might explain things.

Bottom line, I'm trying to understand why the cation/anion balance would be so far off (much more than I've seen anyone else report). I'm not expecting a perfect balance but if the test results appear faulty I would like to let Ward Labs know prior to paying my invoice. I don't have enough expertise in this area and appreciate any feedback on how to proceed.
 

Vale71

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It could be measurement error but it could also be caused by unusually high levels of other minerals that Ward Labs is not testing for.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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It could be measurement error but it could also be caused by unusually high levels of other minerals that Ward Labs is not testing for.
I believe this to be the most logical answer. Go with the numbers as given (sans that every Ward reported SO4 needs to be multiplied by 3) and ignore the 'imbalance'.

The well water itself will exhibit (generally seasonal) variation anyway, so how it analyzes today may not be how it analyzes tomorrow or a month from now or a season from now, etc... The ppm values for any well water are not written in stone. They are variables. Moving targets.
 

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There can be no doubt that Ward Labs itself recognized the Cation/Anion imbalance. If they were in any way concerned they would have re-ran their analysis across the board.
 

mabrungard

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The values from Ward Labs are produced by an inductively-coupled plasma analysis and I would believe them. The likely reason that there is a 'reported' imbalance is that there are other ions in that water that are not reported in the report.

After double-checking that you haven't mis-entered or mis-read the data, I'd live with the reported imbalance and attribute it to 'other ions' when using a Ward report.
 
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cdochow

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Thanks for the responses everyone, much appreciated.

I'm planning to run with the numbers as-is but asked Ward Labs if there were other ions not covered by my tests that might be causing the imbalance. I got a response from the founder (Ray Ward) today saying he was rerunning the bicarbonate ion because the results may need to be corrected. Regardless of whether the results change I'm impressed with their customer service - both before and after my sample submission.
 
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cdochow

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Quick update: Ward Labs was great and double checked a few tests. Turns out the sulfate value was incorrect and bicarbonate only changed slightly upon retesting. The cations/anions balance is now 1.6/1.8 me/L and my Bru'n Water spreadsheets and brewing software are no longer throwing warning messages.

One tip to pass along - when submitting a sample, send them plenty of water to work with in case they need to retest for some reason (they ask for at least 250 ml, I only had 1 liter bottles and sent that)
 
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