What is turbidity and how is it measured?

Turbidity is an optical property of liquid that causes light to be scattered and absorbed, but not transmitted.

Turbidity measures the cloudiness of water- the cloudier the water, the greater the turbidity. Turbidity is caused by suspended solids in the liquid. Examples of things that can cause turbidity in a water sample include phytoplankton and human activities that disturb the land. Land disturbances can result in higher sediment levels in waterways.


Hanna Note: Turbidity can give you a measurement of how much "stuff" is in your sample, but it cannot tell you WHAT is in your sample. The measurement does not differentiate between different sources of turbidity.


Turbidity is important, as high turbidity in drinking water can lead consumers to develop gastrointestinal diseases. High turbidity in water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, can reduce the amount of light reaching lower depths, which can inhibit the growth of submerged aquatic plants; consequently affecting species that are dependent on them, such as fish and shellfish.

Measuring turbidity is useful beyond water measurement. For example, the amount of turbidity in wine can impact aroma and quality.