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Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid or dissolved solids ) that are generally invisible to the naked eye, similar to smoke in air. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality.Fluids can contain suspended solid matter consisting of particles of many different sizes. While some suspended material will be large enough and heavy enough to settle rapidly to the bottom of the container if a liquid sample is left to stand (the settable solids), very small particles will settle only very slowly or not at all if the sample is regularly agitated or the particles are colloidal. These small solid particles cause the liquid to appear turbid.

Turbidity (or haze) is also applied to transparent solids such as glass or plastic Turbidity in open water may be caused by growth of phytoplankton. Human activities that disturb land, such as construction, mining and agriculture, can lead to high sediment levels entering water bodies during rain storms due to storm water runoff. Areas prone to high bank erosion rates as well as urbanized areas also contribute large amounts of turbidity to nearby waters, through storm water pollution from paved surfaces such as roads, bridges and parking lots. Certain industries such as quarrying, mining and coal recovery can generate very high levels of turbidity from colloidal rock particles.

In drinking water, the higher the turbidity level, the higher the risk that people may develop gastrointestinal diseases. This is especially problematic for immun com promised people, because contaminants like viruses or bacteria can become attached to the suspended solids. The suspended solids interfere with water disinfection with chlorine because the particles act as shields for the virus and bacteria. Similarly, suspended solids can protect bacteria from ultraviolet (UV) sterilization of water.

In water bodies such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs, high turbidity levels can reduce the amount of light reaching lower depths, which can inhibit growth of submerged aquatic plants and consequently affect species which are dependent on them, such as fish and shellfish. High turbidity levels can also affect the ability of fish gills to absorb dissolved oxygen. This phenomenon has been regularly observed throughout the Chesapeake Bay in the eastern United States.

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