Have you ever wondered why at times the water flowing from your faucet looks so cloudy; and when this happens, are you concerned that it may pose a health risk? The level of cloudiness in drinking water is referred to as turbidity, which in essence is the measurement of relative clarity of water. Water contains suspended particulate matter, such as silt, clay and other particles, which refract light. When there are high levels of particulate matter suspended in the water, light can no longer penetrate into the water, and consequently it appears cloudy.
How can Turbidity Affect Health?
Turbidity affects the aesthetic quality of water, and as it does not directly impose any health risks, it is only considered a secondary water contaminant. However, cloudy water could indicate the possibility that other pollutants, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia which do pose a health risk, are present. Turbidity is caused by particles that are held in suspension in water. These particles serve as both a source of food and shelter for microbes. Water that is very turbid can reduce the effect of chemical disinfection treatments used to kill pathogens that may be present in the water. Therefore, it is recommended that if water is to be disinfected effectively, the levels of turbidity should be reduced before treatment.
Outbreaks of disease in the past have been attributed to sporadic incidents of high turbidity in water released from water treatment plants. While this association is not conclusive, based on the fact that when the water is turbid, micro-organisms are likely to be present in the water, and some of these micro-organisms can cause health problems, it is highly recommended that the necessary steps are taken to reduce turbidity in drinking water.
Besides causing health problems, turbidity can also cause other problems in our homes, and in our environment. For instance, turbidity that is caused by inorganic materials can clog pipes, while turbidity stemming from organic materials can cause stains on clothes and other household objects.
How Turbidity is Measured
There are different devices that are used to measure turbidity, such as a transparency tube; a secchi disk, which is used to measure turbidity in deeper water; or a turbidity meter, which is an electronic device that is used to measure the clarity of the water. When measuring turbidity, nephelolometric turbidity units are used - as turbidity increases, the NTU also increases. While 1 NTU is the recommended standard turbidity level for drinking water, turbidity will only really be noticeable in water at levels greater than 5 NTU.
Water Treatment Methods to Improve Water Clarity
A good quality drinking water filter, such as the Big Berkey fitted with Black Berkey filter cartridges, can remove these suspended solids from your drinking water, producing clear appetizing water for you to drink. The Berkey water filter will not only improve the clarity of the water, but will also remove any pathogens that could be lurking alongside these sediments, to ensure that you and your loved ones suffer no ill side effects should the water be contaminated with other more harmful pollutants.