Measuring and Understanding Total Suspended Solids
It is useful for anyone involved in water quality monitoring or environmental science to be able to answer this question: what is total suspended solids and how is it measured? The total suspended solids in a body of water will have a huge effect on the quality of water in most cases.
In some cases, people will need to conduct these measurements in order to assess how polluted the water is. In other cases, it’s important to get a sense of the total suspended solids in order to quantify the water quality in general from the standpoint of the health of the ecosystem.
The total suspended solids in a body of water will have a huge effect on the water clarity. People will be able to get a sense of the total suspended solids right away just on a visual basis. Still, it’s important to gather quantitative information as well as qualitative information on a given body of water in nature.
The total suspended solids in a body of water are not the same as the turbidity, however. Turbidity shows how the total suspended solids will vary in their concentration and how they will affect the clarity of the water. The total suspended solids are the particles themselves.
Total Suspended Solids
The total suspended solids constitute the amount of solid material within a given volume of water. However, the specific particles will have to be bigger than 2 microns in order to qualify within this measurement. This is partly a function of the fact that it is just too difficult to measure particles that are much smaller than that.
This is also a function of the fact that particles that are smaller than that are not going to affect the turbidity of the water and are not going to be visible. Those particles are typically bacteria, viruses, or something of that nature, and they become more relevant in the field of microbiology.
The suspended solids in given bodies of water will always vary. In many cases, they are basically inorganic material of some kind or another. Some of the suspended solids can include sand, algae, silt, plankton, or clay. Of course, the suspended solids do not have to include materials that are naturally occurring. Chemical precipitates will certainly count towards the total suspended solids. Testing for chemical precipitates in the total suspended solids can be an important part of water quality monitoring in the first place.
In most bodies of water, even if they are heavily polluted, the total suspended solids will largely consist of inorganic and organic material that is naturally occurring within the ecosystem. There will be exceptions, but that is usually what people will find when measuring the total suspended solids in a body of water in nature.
Sources of Total Suspended Solids
For most outdoor bodies of water, the total suspended solids will come from the surrounding area and they will build up in the water over time. Otherwise, they will come from the aquatic ecosystem itself. Lots of inorganic and organic matter will tend to flow throughout a body of water.
The decomposition of living things in the area will tend to contribute to the total suspended solids in a body of water. The lighter the particles, the more likely it is that they will continue to contribute to the total suspended solids over time.
Some of the heavier and denser particles will eventually settle to the bottom of a given body of water. This will be the case with some sand and gravel, at least in part. If there is not enough of a water flow in a given body of water, it’s even more likely that the heaviest of the particles will eventually just settle to the base of a given area. Developments like this are not necessarily positive for the aquatic ecosystem, since the formerly suspended solids will choke certain organisms and disrupt different small ecosystems.