How to measure conductivity in water

Updated July 20, 2017

Conductivity is a measure of how well a specific material conducts electricity. In water, electricity is conducted by the available ions, or electrolytes, dissolved in the water. Measuring the conductivity of water from different sources can indicate the concentration of electrolytes in the liquid. For this reason, conductivity can also be a measure of water quality, as many minerals and run-off from fertilisers produce ions that increase conductivity. Measure the conductivity of water from several sources to determine how much they vary in ion content.

Water samples

Select several locations from which to collect water. To do a thorough environmental survey, collect the water from several locations in the same water course.

Label the vials with date, time, location, and collection depth before collecting. Do not put the labels on the vials.

Collect samples by dunking the vials in the water. Allow the flow of water to resume before removing each vial and capping it.

Wipe the vials dry and apply the labels.

Conductivity measurement

Allow all the water samples to get to room temperature. Also do this for a distilled or de-ionised/distilled sample for a control sample.

Before measuring conductivity, follow the manufacturer's directions on establishing a baseline for the conductivity meter. Conductivity is frequently reported in Siemens per metre or micro-Siemens per metre. If a conductivity meter has multiple choices for reported units, use one of these.

For comparison purposes, use a meter to determine the conductivity of distilled or de-ionised/distilled water. This value will serve as a baseline for comparing the other measurements.

Measure the conductance of each water sample using the conductivity meter. Between samples, wash electrodes with clean water and carefully wipe them dry. If samples contain debris, allow the particles to settle. If a meter has separate electrodes, keep them the same distance from either other in each sample and as still as possible.


To gain a broad survey, collect water from several locations as well as from some of the same locations at different points in time, either times of the year or during droughts or after heavy rainfall.

Things You'll Need

  • Conductivity meter
  • Small vials for collection
  • Vial labels
  • Waterproof pen
  • De-ionised water
  • Lint-free wipes
  • Room thermometer
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About the Author

Dr. Alex Tan has been writing in science for more than six years. She is now working as a technical and science writer in California. Tan received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University