How Do Impurities In Water Affect The Quality Of Concrete?

Concrete is a vital component of many constructions and engineering projects, which makes it essential to understand how impurities in the water can affect the quality of concrete. Impurities such as salt, oil, silt, or chemicals can have a significant impact on the performance of concrete by weakening the bond between the cement and aggregate particles.

Effects Of Water Impurities On Concrete

Suspended Particles: Particles suspended in water can affect the quality of concrete mix by clogging up pores within the cement and creating weak spots. This reduces the strength of concrete, increases porosity, and decreases its durability.

Dissolved Minerals: When water contains high levels of dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and sulfates – this can also reduce the strength of the concrete. This is because these minerals react with Portland cement and create chemical compounds like gypsum, ettringite, and calcium silicates which are more soluble than the original cement particles.

Organic Contaminants: Certain pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, bacteria, and fungi can significantly reduce the quality of concrete. Humic acid can reduce the hydration rate of cement. These contaminants can cause discoloration, decrease strength, reduce durability, and lead to premature cracking.

pH: pH is an important factor in concrete production, as it affects the hydration rate of cement and determines how well the cement particles bond together. If water has a low pH, then this can make the concrete more susceptible to chemical attacks from acids or alkalis.

Inorganic Salts: Inorganic salts like chlorides or sulfates can attack the protective layers of concrete and corrode any embedded steel reinforcements. The salts present in water can react with cement and cause efflorescence, which leads to an increase in porosity and reduces the strength of concrete.

Seawater: Seawater should never be used in concrete production due to the high levels of salts and minerals present. If seawater is used, this can lead to the corrosion of embedded steel reinforcements and a weakened structure.

Oil Contamination: Oil contamination can also reduce the strength of concrete, as oil can interfere with the bond between cement particles and water.

Sugar: Sugar in water can lead to an increase in the amount of lime in concrete, leading to a weakened structure. Sugar can also interfere with the bond between cement particles and water, leading to a weaker concrete mix.

Algae: Algae can clog up the pores within concrete, leading to a weaker structure that is more susceptible to cracking and spalling. Algae in water can also act as food for bacteria which produce acids that corrode concrete and any embedded steel reinforcement.

Water Impurities And Their Allowable Limits

Chloride: Chlorides are salts derived from hydrochloric acid, which is a corrosive material that can damage concrete and steel reinforcements in structures. The chloride content of the concrete should be kept below 0.06%, or 600 ppm by weight, to ensure its durability.

Alkalinity: High alkalinity can cause the concrete to become brittle, leading to a decrease in strength. The allowable alkalinity content is up to 600 ppm of calcium carbonate equivalent (CCE).

Sulfates: Sulphates are naturally occurring minerals found in water that react with Portland cement and create expansive cracks within the concrete. The maximum allowable sulfate content is 0.3% by weight or 3000 ppm.

Organic Impurities: The presence of organic material in water can lead to the formation of air pockets within the concrete, which can weaken the mix and reduce its strength over time. The allowable limit for organic impurities is 200 ppm or 0.02%.

Suspended Matter: This type of impurity is composed of clay, silt, and other fine-grained particles. The presence of suspended matter can obstruct the setting process of concrete as well as interfere with the workability and stability of the mix. It is recommended to keep this content below 2000 ppm or 0.2%.

Temperature: High temperatures can cause the concrete mix to dry too quickly, resulting in a decrease in strength and durability. The maximum allowable temperature of the water used for concrete mixing is between 40°F to 80°F.

Ways To Reduce The Negative Effects Of Water Pollution

  • Use modern water treatment processes that adhere to the highest standards of quality control, such as reverse osmosis, distillation, and filtration. Water should be tested regularly for impurities before being used in concrete production.
  • Source water from clean sources, such as underground reserves or surface reservoirs with little chemical pollution.
  • Make sure that concrete mixers, pipes, and pumps are regularly cleaned and decontaminated to prevent the contamination of freshwater supplies.
  • Follow good manufacturing practices such as reusing or recycling waste materials in order to avoid any pollution from getting into the water supply.
  • Practice proper waste disposal and always follow environmental regulations when dealing with hazardous materials.

Factors Affecting The Strength Of Concrete

  • Water-Cement Ratio
  • Cement Content
  • Aggregate Quality
  • Curing Conditions
  • Age Of Concrete
  • Admixtures
  • Hydration Rate
  • Mixing And Placement


Why Use Distilled Water In Mixing Concrete?

Distilled water is considered to be the best type of water to add to concrete when mixing, as it has been purified and any impurities have been removed.

What Type Of Water Should Be Used In Mixing Concrete?

The best practice for water quality when making concrete is to use potable water.

What Is The Optimal Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Content For Concrete?

The optimal TDS content is usually between 500 to 5,000 parts per million (ppm). Any higher than this and the concrete can become weak or porous.

What Impact Does Porosity Have On The Structural Integrity Of Concrete?

Porosity is defined as the volume fraction of voids or air-filled spaces in a material.

  • Reduce the strength
  • Reduce the durability
  • Affects the permeability of concrete

How Does Rainwater Impact Recently Poured Concrete?

Rainwater can contain impurities such as dust, dirt, and other unwanted substances. When rainwater falls on recently poured concrete, these impurities can get embedded in the material’s surface. It softens and sheds the cement.


How Do Impurities In Water Affect The Quality Of Concrete - infographic
How Do Impurities In Water Affect The Quality Of Concrete – infographic

It is also important to be aware of the different types of water available for mixing so that one can choose an appropriate option depending on the type of project being undertaken. Good water quality control practices are critical for producing strong, durable, and high-quality concrete for any construction project.

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