Physical indicators of water quality

Turbidity is the measure of relative clarity of a liquid. It is an optical characteristic of water and is an expression 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, finely divided inorganic and organic matter, algae, soluble colored organic compounds, and plankton and other microscopic organisms.

Electrical conductivity (EC) is a measure of the ease with which electrical current can pass through water. Pure water is not a good conductor of electricity. Ordinary distilled water in equilibrium with carbon dioxide of the air has a conductivity of about 10 x 10-6 W-1*m-1 (20 dS/m). Because the electrical current is transported by the ions in solution, the conductivity increases as the concentration of ions increases.

Water color odor and taste. Noticeable water problems tend to involve unusual smells, colors and tastes. Once identified, these aesthetically displeasing elements can be eliminated using a variety of different methods.

Strong chlorine taste or smell – Generally this occurs when the water is treated at the water treatment plant to disinfect it. The addition of chlorine is used to kill off bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.

Metallic taste – Some water systems have a high mineral concentration giving the consumer a salty or soda taste. In the case of Iron and Manganese, a strong metallic taste is readily detected.

Rotten egg odor – This is usually a result of decaying organic deposits underground.

Musty or unnatural smells – These smells are normally a result of organic matter or even some pesticides in the water supply.

Red or brown color – A red, brown or rusty color is generally indicative of iron or manganese in your water.

Yellow color – This coloration occurs in regions where the water has passed through marshlands and then moved through peat soils.

Blue or green color – A green or blue color is generally a result of copper in your water supply, or copper pipes and corrosive water.

Cloudy white or foamy – Cloudy water is usually due to turbidity. Turbidity is caused by finely divided particles in the water. 

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