Turbidity, the measure of suspended particles in water, is a common sign of stormwater mismanagement. This can be harmful to the surrounding environment and lead to erosion of the local infrastructure.
Active turbidity testing helps ensure that local water sources are unpolluted and that water filtration systems are doing their job.
While most of us take the clarity of our drinking water and aquifers for granted, turbidity and proper stormwater management are especially critical in tropical states like Florida.
Consider that the state of Florida possesses over 7,800 natural lakes and over 50,000 square miles of river water. These areas are subject to constant satellite and ground turbidity testing to prevent local water pollution. In addition, local coral reefs and aquatic ecosystems in the southeast require ongoing turbidity maintenance and care to ensure their continued survival.
Under the Clean Water Act, Florida is required to test its water-quality standards across the state every three years. As part of this assessment, stormwater management and turbidity are central concerns for the abovementioned reasons.
To ensure the continued maintenance and proliferation of clean and clear water, turbidity maintenance at construction sites and vulnerable ecological zones is critical across the state of Florida.
That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you understand how turbidity water tests work and how active turbidity testing and management benefits the residents and the state of Florida as a whole.
What is Water Turbidity
In its broadest definition, turbidity refers to the clarity of the water. During rainstorms, water rushes into streams and rivers, which cause particulates from the beds and sides to kick up and cloud the water. In addition, sediment from stormwater runoff, microorganism growth, and loss of vegetation can all lead to excessive turbidity.
In construction zones that are flooded or contaminated, excessive turbidity can turn into a vicious cycle. For example, when excessive stormwater runoff floods a stream with sediment, it blocks out sunlight and leads to a rapid loss of plant and fish life.
This loss of flora then reduces dissolved oxygen, which allows microorganisms to proliferate and turbidity to increase. Once this occurs, aquatic life begins to die and surrounding infrastructure from the rushing stream becomes vulnerable to erosion.
So while turbidity or cloudy water may seem innocuous on its surface, erosion of streams and loss of vegetation can amplify the problem for surrounding ecosystems and lead to a devastating loss of aquatic life.
In addition, excessively turbid water may possess toxic microorganisms that lead to water-borne diseases and threaten the health of surrounding citizens if turbid water were to enter a public drinking source.
To combat this problem, frequent turbidity tests and active stormwater management around work zones are critical to preserving Florida’s natural water sources.
How Turbidity Testing Works
Fortunately, turbidity meters or nephelometers allow experts to measure the amount of light being reflected from a water source to measure its turbidity. These tests encompass cloud coverage, the current temperature, and other environmental markers to assess the turbidity accurately.
Best of all, nephelometers are not terribly expensive, and most environmental consultant companies provide their own to help you manage your active stormwater runoff.
By actively and frequently testing water turbidity, local agencies and consultants can develop strategies to reduce turbidity and help promote clean water.
How to Reduce Turbidity in Water
Obviously, the best solution to reduce water turbidity is to prevent it before it happens. The two best ways to do this are through active stormwater management, including:
- Storing or slowing down stormwater runoff to allow sediment to settle
- Filtering suspended solids from the water column to reduce turbidity
With that being said, these two strategies should already be incorporated as part of ongoing BMPs and an SWPPP plan.
On the other hand, once turbidity has diminished a waterway, communities can actively reduce turbidity in three different ways:
- Dredging or removing sediment from the bottom of water sources
- Treating water with chemical flocculants
- Using reverse osmosis to filter and treat water to make it drinkable
Of these options, dredging is the most efficient and most expensive. On the other hand, flocculation can be suitable and is often used by water treatment facilities to filtrate water. Finally, reverse osmosis provides a suitable option for residents with polluted groundwater or water wells who want drinking water.
The best offense is a good defense. By investing in ongoing turbidity testing at worksites and vulnerable ecological zones, businesses and communities can save themselves the headaches of trying to treat rather than prevent a possible pollution problem.
Equally as important, companies should invest in active stormwater management to prevent turbidity and avoid fines.
Considering how many Florida residents get their drinking water from fresh aquifers, we also recommend residents actively test and monitor water drinking sources for their health.
Businesses and construction managers in Florida should also incorporate ongoing turbidity testing as part of their stormwater management BMPs and as part of their SWPPP.
Fortunately, turbidity testing is cheap and accurate. By implementing it at vulnerable water sources and active construction zones, Florida residents and businesses can save themselves money and enjoy continually clean and clear drinking water.