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Although based on relatively simple theory, ORP is, unfortunately, also a measurement that can show more problems than other water quality sensors with regard to consistency between different instruments and overall accuracy. In addition, these issues are further complicated in that their extent is likely to depend on both the condition of the sensor and the composition of the water being tested.
The most common problem reported with regard to ORP determination in environmental water is that readings from various instruments (sometimes with exactly the same sensor type and electronics) differ by a significant margin (50-100 mV) even though the sensors are in the same container of water. To make the problem more perplexing, all of the sensors show identical readings in an ORP standard such as Zobell solution.
The exact explanation for this paradox is sometimes elusive, but there are at least three possible reasons for its occurrence.
The fact that similar or identical ORP sensors read differently in environmental water yet the same in Zobell solution is due to the fact that the concentration of redox-active species (ferricyanide/ferrocyanide for Zobell) is much greater in the standards. This higher concentration usually “swamps out” the inconsistencies related to detection limit problems (caused by low amounts of redox-active species) and response time issues (caused by electrode contamination), thus all sensors respond rapidly and read within the specification of ± 20 mV when in standards.
If you observe inconsistency between different sensors or experience ORP readings which seem unusual for the water being tested, the following steps are recommended to identify and/or correct the problem:
Website U.S. Geological Survey:
Website Van London-pHoenix Co: