Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by individual particles (suspended solids) that are generally invisible to the naked eye. The units of turbidity are known as Jackson Turbidity Units (JTU) or Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU) are a key test of water quality. A practical example of turbidity would be muddy water. The more mud present in the water, the less transparent and more turbid the water becomes.
Turbidity in water is caused by the presence of suspended particles that scatter and absorb light, leading to a cloudiness or haziness in the liquid. The sources of turbidity can vary, and both natural and human induced factors contribute to elevated levels of suspended particles.
common causes of turbidity in water
- Soil Erosion - One of the primary natural sources of turbidity is soil erosion. Rainfall, surface runoff, and flowing water can erode soil particles and transport them into water bodies.
- Construction Activities - Construction sites can contribute significantly to turbidity in nearby water bodies. Excavation, grading, and other construction activities can disturb the soil, leading to the runoff of sediment laden water.
- Urban Runoff - Urban areas with impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots can increase surface runoff, carrying pollutants and sediments into waterways and causing turbidity.
- Agricultural Practices - Agricultural activities, including plowing, tilling, and irrigation, can disturb soil and contribute to the runoff of sediment and nutrients into rivers and streams.
- Deforestation - Removing vegetation through deforestation can increase the likelihood of soil erosion, leading to higher levels of turbidity in nearby water bodies.
- Mining Activities - Mining operations can disturb the earth and expose sediments and minerals. Runoff from mining areas may contain suspended particles, contributing to elevated turbidity in receiving waters.
- Algal Blooms - Rapid growth of algae, known as algal blooms, can contribute to turbidity when the algae die and decompose. The resulting organic matter and cell fragments can increase water cloudiness.
- Resuspension of Bottom Sediments - Activities such as boating, dredging, or other disturbances to the bottom of water bodies can resuspend sediments, increasing turbidity.
- Wastewater Discharges - Discharges of untreated or partially treated wastewater can introduce suspended solids into water bodies, contributing to turbidity.
- Natural Processes - Natural processes such as volcanic activity, earthquakes, and wind can also introduce particles into water, affecting turbidity.
The specific causes of turbidity can vary based on the geographical location, land use patterns, and human activities in a particular area. Monitoring and managing turbidity are essential for maintaining water quality, protecting ecosystems, and ensuring the safety of drinking water supplies. Water treatment processes, erosion control measures, and best management practices can be implemented to reduce turbidity and its associated impacts.