Impact of concrete and PVC pipes on urban water chemistry

P. J. Davies, I. A. Wright, O. J. Jonasson, S. J. Findlay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Waterways contain a chemical signature of catchment land use, climate and geology. This is increasingly being influenced by the urban landscape and particularly the composition of materials and activities that occur on impervious surfaces. This paper examines the degree and extent of two types of drainage materials, concrete and PVC, on urban water chemistry. This study found that water collected from a zinc and slate/tile roof and stored in a plastic rain tank (roof water) was acidic (pH 4.79) and had low bicarbonate concentrations (0.5 mg/l), water from an undeveloped catchment (reference creek) was mildly acidic (pH 5.5) with bicarbonate concentrations of 1.7 mg/l while water from a stream draining a residential catchment (urban creek) was mildly alkaline (pH 7.35) with bicarbonate concentrations of 36.3mg/l. The three types of water were then circulated through a concrete pipe or PVC pipe for 100 min and measured for a range of water chemical attributes. Roof water and water from the reference creek reported a significant increase across a range of analytes, most notably bicarbonate and calcium levels when passed through the concrete pipe, while water from the urban creek changed a lesser amount. When passed through the PVC pipe the changes in water chemistry were significantly less for roof water and urban creek water. The data suggests that in-transport processes from concrete drainage systems are having a significant influence on water chemistry, particularly where inflow is acidic. The major factor identified in this study could be attributed to the dissolution of calcium, bicarbonate and potassium ions from the concrete pipe. This could impact on receiving environments that are naturally acidic and low in bicarbonate, such as those in northern Sydney. The implications of this study point towards a need to consider the type of materials used in urban drainage networks if water chemistry and stream ecosystem health is to be protected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-241
Number of pages9
JournalUrban Water Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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