Due to the high and steadily growing demand for isotope analysis as a method for determining the origin of water damage, Hydroisotop once again offered a webinar on this topic. The seminar was attended by about 60 participants from Austria, Switzerland and Germany, representing a total of 33 companies from different industries, such as surveyors, architects and building biologists. The high number of participants shows that there is great interest in learning more about the isotope method. In order to meet the increased demand, Hydroi-sotop will repeat the basic seminar on 8th Nov. 2023. Subsequently, Hydroisotop will conduct an advanced face-to-face seminar on 9th and 10th Nov. 2023. The aim of this seminar is to provide the participants with further knowledge in the application of the isotope method with the involvement of building experts.
Following the welcome by Dr. Vera Winde and Dr. Peter Rose, it went directly into medias res. After clarifying what is meant by the term "isotope" – namely atoms of an element with the same proton number but different neutron numbers – the properties of the isotopes in the water molecule were characterized. Due to the different physical properties, the isotope abundances in the water cycle shift. One speaks of the so-called fractionation. It is precisely this fractionation, or its characteristics, that can be used to distinguish different types of water from one another and thus to narrow down the cause of water damage by means of exclusion procedures. This is achieved by comparing the isotope signatures of the contami-nated water with those of the reference samples, such as tap water or precipitation water.
When using the isotope method to determine the origin of water damage, the application limits must not be ignored. These are reached, for example, if the selected reference sam-ples do not differ in their isotope signature. Consequently, the water of the damage cannot be unambiguously assigned. Furthermore, the interpretation of the analysis results is subject to uncertainties, e.g. if the water evaporates strongly. This is especially the case if only a small sample volume could be obtained. In addition, unusual environmental conditions can complicate the determination of the cause. If necessary, chemical analyses can be used to narrow down ambiguous isotope results. Another source of error is sampling. If the samples are taken professionally and then packed safely for transport, this point does not present any further challenge. At this point it is particularly important to ensure that the samples are not mixed with each other or come into contact with each other.
Despite its limitations, the isotope method is a fast, minimally invasive and relatively inexpensive way to determine the origin of water damage and can be used for simple as well as complex problems. It is used when the cause of the water damage is unknown, when com-mon on-site methods do not help or are not feasible, when disputes arise and evidence is required for trials, or when proof must be provided to the insurance company.
In a discussion concluding the workshop, the speakers answered questions about the theo-retical background and the practical application of the isotope method. For example, prob-lems of sampling and factors that can influence the isotope signature of the original water of the damage event were discussed.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your participation, the interesting questions and suggestions as well as the positive feedback!
We look forward to welcoming you again at our follow-up seminar.