- Author: Ben Faber

I was just speaking to a group of Certified Crop Advisors and there was some confusion about the units used by different labs to report their results, so I put together this sheet to help understand the relationship between the different terms. They are usually interchangeable, but one needs to know how they convert between each other. So here is a cheat sheet.

Common ions in water: calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), sodium (Na1+)

sulfate (SO42-), chloride (Cl-), carbonate (CO32-), bicarbonate (HCO3-), boron (H3BO3)

Measured as parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg/l), which are interchangeable , or milliequivalents per liter (meq/l). A milliequivalent is the ppm of that ion divided by its atomic weight per charge.

Example: Ca2+ with atomic weight of 40 and a solution concentration of possibly 200 ppm. Ca2+ has two charges per atom, so it has a weight of 20 per charge. 200 ppm divided by 20 = 10 meq of calcium for a liter of water.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS): measure of total salts in solution in ppm or mg/L

Electrical Conductivity (EC): similar to TDS but analyzed differently.

Units: deciSiemens/meter(dS/m)=millimhos/centimeter (mmhos/cm)=

1000 micromhos/cm (umhos/cm).

ConversionTDSEC: 640 ppm=1 dS/m= 1 mmhos/cm=1000 umhos/cm

Hardness: measure of calcium and magnesium in water expressed as ppm CaCO3

pH: measure of how acid or base the solution

Alkalinity: measure of the amount of carbonate and bicarbonate controlling the pH, expressed as ppm CaCO3.

Sodium Adsorption Ratio (SAR): describes the relative sodium hazard of water

SAR= (Na)/((Ca+Mg)/2)1/2, all units in meq/l

**1.5 feet of water with EC of 1.6 dS/m adds 10,000 # of salt per acre**

**and that same water with 20 mg/l of nutrient will supply 80# of that nutrient/acre**

**Sea water has ~ 50 dS/m, 20,000 ppm Cl, 10,000 ppm**

**Irrigation water WATCH OUT- 1,000 ppm TDS, 100 ppm Na/Cl, 1 ppm B**