Areas of Work
Determining the origin of water-caused damage using the isotope method

The repair of water-induced damages requires knowledge of the specific cause. Especially in cases of water damage in buildings, the origin and the path of water is not always known. To determine the cause of a water damage, however, it is often sufficient to differentiate between tap water and precipitation. In these cases, the isotope method has proved to be an elegant and practical alternative to conventional leak detection methods.


Water is a mixture of common and rare hydrogen and oxygen isotopes. These isotope mixtures are subject to a constant change due to fractionation processes (evaporation and condensation) in the water cycle. Global measurements of precipitation have indicated an approximately stable linear relationship - known as the Global Meteoric Water Line.

In contrast, isotope signatures of regional tap waters, in most cases, are relatively constant. They lie mostly on or at least close to the Global Meteoric Water Line. This relatively constant isotope signature of tap water is used for determining the origin of a water damage. In order to identify the origin of a damage-causing water, the isotope signatures of tap water and the damage-causing water are usually compared to each other. Since damage-causing water, in most cases, underlies evaporation processes leading to changes in the isotope signature, a back projection to the original composition is required. Knowledge about the environmental conditions of the damage-causing water allows this process to be traced on an evaporation line. The comparison of the values of tap water and damage-causing water in many cases allow the desired distinction - and thus the determination of the origin of the damage-causing water.



For the isotope analyses of water, a sample volume of 2-4 ml, filled into glass- or PET-bottles, is sufficient.

The recovery of damage-caused water can be done from material samples as well. If it is not possible to obtain water samples directly, because the moisture is bound in components or building materials, we can provide the necessary equipment. For this purpose, prepared silica gel is filled into plastic tubes and sent to you in an airtight packaging.

These absorber tubes are then inserted into boreholes in the building material or the component – for example a masonry - and sealed airtight. After approximately 10-14 days, the silica gel has generally absorbed sufficient moisture so that the absorber tubes - again sealed airtight - can be sent to us to recover the absorbed water for the analysis.


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