Turbidity | Peer Reviewed Journals

Global Research Journal of Science and Nature
Open Access


Turbidity is the measure of relative clarity of a liquid. It is an optical characteristic of water and is a measurement of the amount of light that is scattered by material in the water when a light is shined through the water sample. The higher the intensity of scattered light, the higher the turbidity. Material that causes water to be turbid include clay, silt, very tiny inorganic and organic matter, algae, dissolved coloured organic compounds, and plankton and other microscopic organisms.
Turbidity makes water cloudy or opaque. The picture to the right shows a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologist sampling highly turbid water in the Colorado River in Arizona. The water collected in a bottle will be used to find out the turbidity, which is measured by shining a light through the water and is reported in nephelometric turbidity units (NTU). During periods of low flow (base flow), many rivers are a clear green colour, and turgidities are low, usually less than 10 NTU. During a rainstorm, particles from the surrounding land are washed into the river making the water a muddy brown colour, indicating water that has higher turbidity values. Also, during high flows, water velocities are faster and water volumes are higher, which can more easily stir up and suspend material from the stream bed, causing higher turgidities.

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