A lignin-based water reducer for concrete was prepared from softwood soda lignin. The soda lignin and the lignin-polyethylene glycol (PEG) derivative were modified with ozone to improve their performance as water reducers. The performance of ozone-treated soda lignin was superior than untreated soda lignin and commercial lignosulfonate-type water reducers in the mortar flow test. The soda lignin treated with a high ozone charge showed better performance than lignin treated with a low ozone charge. The ozone treatment improved the performance of the lignin-PEG derivative water reducer as well. The lignin-PEG derivative water reducer with a longer PEG chain length showed better performance than that of the shorter PEG chain. The zeta potential of cement suspension with the ozone-treated soda lignin showed a higher negative value than the untreated soda lignin. The data of zeta potential analysis suggested that the electrostatic repulsion force of cement particles with the ozone-treated lignin would be larger than the untreated lignin.