WHAT IS TURBIDITY?
Material suspended in the water affects light penetration and the degree to which it is blocked is referred to as turbidity. In short, turbidity is a measurement of how much suspended material is in the water and indicates water clarity.
WHY CARE ABOUT TURBIDITY?
Suspended solids can have a great effect on waterbodies. They can reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen and raise surface water temperature. They can also affect fish vision, spawning, and breathing; as well as the breathing of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Turbidity isn't always bad as every waterbody has some natural level of it, and the aquatic life in that body adapts to thrive with that natural level.
- Maximum increase of 10 NTU's
NATURAL FACTORS INFLUENCING TURBIDITY
- Geology - the types of material in the area where the stream flows affects turbidity (e.g., banks with loose soil will cause more erosion).
- Stream size - large rivers may have many microscopic plants that increase turbidity.
- Seasonal weather - spring snow melt and rain can increase runoff which generally also increases turbidity.
- Plant root systems - roots help hold soil in place and out of the river. Fires, floods, wind storms, and other natural events may take out this vegetation which would increase erosion and turbidity.
- Learn more about limiting human impacts: Protect Your Water.
HUMAN FACTORS INFLUENCING TURBIDITY
- Bank stabilization - maintaining riparian vegetation or installing rip rap can help decrease turbidity.
Activities that will increase erosion:
~ Road building
~ Deepening or dredging channels
HOW DO WE MEASURE TURBIDITY?
Utah Water Watch- Learn how volunteers across the state monitor turbidity.
Stream Side Science- Explore different lesson plans relating to turbidity and see how they line up with the core curriculums for grades K-12.