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A Beginners Guide to Water Management—Symbols, Abbreviations, and Conversion Factors


This 44-page booklet provides the tools for reading, converting, interpreting and/or translating units of measure commonly used by people involved in water management in the U.S. and internationally. Much of this information is typically only available by searching numerous publications, but we have assembled it here under one cover for quick reference. Included in this circular:

  • Common SI (International System) Prefixes
  • Commonly Used Abbreviations and Symbols
  • Commonly Used Metric and English Conversion Factors
  • A Glossary of Commonly Used Metric and English Conversion Factors
  • Elements and Atomic Weights
  • Interpreting Water Chemistry Formulas and Calculating Molecular Weights
  • Different Ways of Expressing a Chemical Compound
  • Using Atomic Weights to Compare Different Measures of Concentration

Keywords: abbreviation, acre, area, atomic weights, calories, carbon-12, Celcius, centimeter, common prefixes, communication, concentration, conversion factor, conversions, cubic, element, ergs, exponent, Fahrenheit, fathom, feet, gallon, grains, gram, hectare, inches, International System (SI), kilo, length, liter, lumen, mass, meter, metric, metric system, micro, mille, mole, molecular weight, molecule, multiplying factor, nutrients, ounces, prefix, pressure, quart, relative, atomic, weight, scientific, language, scientific, notation, square, standardize, symbols, temperature, thousand, ton, translators, unit of measure, volume, watt, weight, yard.

Note: Circular 105 is available in Portable Document Format (pdf) only. It can be obtained as a single PDF file by clicking on the "Printer Friendly Version" link above (file size = 1 MB).

Photos used with permission as credited.

Publication #CIR105

Release Date:November 17, 2020

Reviewed At:October 25, 2022

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Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document is CIR105, is the fifth of a series of information circulars dedicated to familiarizing citizens with the language and techniques used by those involved in water management, of the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. © April 2002, 2nd Edition. Reviewed by Mark Hoyer June 2020. Visit the EDIS website at and the Florida LAKEWATCH website Readability grade level: 12.0.

About the Authors

Florida LAKEWATCH (FLW) is a research and public outreach program coordinated within the UF/IFAS Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. FLW facilitates public involvement in the management of Florida waters by training citizen volunteers to collect monthly water samples, algae samples, and water clarity data from a lake or waterbody of their choice. Over time, this information is used to document nutrient levels and/or to predict biological productivity. For more information about the program or to obtain FLW data, call 1-800-LAKEWATCH (1-800-525-3928) or view the website at


  • Mark Hoyer