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The cationic monomer, N,N-diallyl-3-(diethylphosphonato)propylammonium chloride, was cyclopolymerized in aqueous solutions using t-butylhydroperoxide (TBHP) or ammonium persulfate (APS) as initiators to afford a cationic polyelectrolyte (CPE) having a (diethylphosphonato)propyl pendent. The CPE on acidic hydrolysis of the diester groups gave pH-responsive polyzwitterionic acid (PZA) which on treatment with one and two equivalents NaOH gave zwitterionic/anionic polyelectrolyte (ZAPE) and dianionic polyelectrolyte (DAPE), respectively. The solution properties of the CPE, PZA, ZAPE, and DAPE were investigated in detail by viscometric technique. For the purpose of comparison, the solution properties of the polymers were correlated to a structurally similar polyzwitterion (PZ) having monoethylphosphonate and NH+ groups. When performance evaluation was carried out for application in reverse osmosis (RO) plants, DAPE at a concentration of 10 ppm in brackish water feed proved very effective as an inhibitor against calcium sulfate scale. POLYM. ENG. SCI., 54:166–174, 2014. © 2013 Society of Plastics Engineers