Deutsch: Leitfähigkeit / Español: conductividad / Português: condutividade / Français: conductivité / Italiano: conducibilità

Conductivity refers to the ability of a material to conduct an electric current. In the environmental context, it most commonly pertains to the conductivity of water, which is an important measure of water quality.


In environmental science, conductivity is used as an indicator of the amount of dissolved salts or inorganic chemicals in water. Water with high conductivity has high concentrations of dissolved ions, such as sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium, which can come from natural sources, agricultural runoff, or industrial discharge. The measurement of conductivity provides crucial information about the ionic composition of water bodies and is used to assess the impact of pollutant discharges into aquatic environments.

Conductivity is measured in microsiemens per centimeter (µS/cm) and can vary widely depending on the water source. For example, rainwater typically has low conductivity, while seawater has very high conductivity due to its high salt content.

Application Areas

Water conductivity is routinely measured in hydrology, water treatment, and environmental monitoring. It is a quick and inexpensive indicator of water quality that can alert scientists and environmental managers to changes in an ecosystem. For instance, a sudden increase in conductivity might indicate a pollution event such as a wastewater spill or agricultural runoff entering a waterway.

Well-Known Examples

One practical application of conductivity measurements is in the management of freshwater systems. Conductivity is monitored to ensure compliance with environmental regulations regarding salt concentrations, which can affect aquatic life and water usability for drinking, irrigation, and industry.

Treatment and Risks

While conductivity itself poses no direct risks, high or low values can indicate potential environmental threats. High conductivity may signify pollution or an imbalance in the water's ionic composition, which can harm aquatic organisms and alter water chemistry, making it unsuitable for certain uses. Conversely, very low conductivity can indicate a lack of essential minerals, which can also affect aquatic life.

Similar Terms

Related terms include total dissolved solids (TDS), salinity, and water quality indicators. These concepts are integral to understanding the chemical characteristics of water and their implications for the environment and human use.



Conductivity is a key parameter for assessing water quality in environmental contexts. It provides valuable information about the concentration of dissolved ions in water, helping to manage ecosystems and prevent pollution-related damage.


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