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Water Quality Assessment: Chemical: Ortho- and Total Phosphate
Image showing a bag of fertilizer.Phosphorus is a nutrient essential for the metabolic reactions of plants and animals. Once it enters the ground water or a stream, it quickly bonds to soil particles, making it temporarily unavailable to living organisms. Since it naturally occurs in low levels, phosphorus is often the "growth-limiting" factor for plants.

Phosphorus occurs in several forms—both inorganic and organic. Inorganic orthophosphate (PO43-) is the only form available to living organisms. However, the other forms of phosphate can be transformed into orthophosphate. For this reason, total phosphate is generally measured in addition to orthophosphate. The measure of total phosphate provides an estimate of the amount of phosphorus potentially available to plants and animals.

Since the phosphorus requirements of algae are minimal, rapid algal growth occurs when excess phosphorus is present in streams. Common sources of excess phosphorus include agricultural runoff from feed lots and fertilized fields, and sewage that contains organic phosphorus as well as inorganic phosphorus in products such as detergents. The resulting algal bloom can lead to eutrophication and the subsequent degradation of stream water quality.

 

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pH / Alkalinity / Hardness / Nitrates. Nitrites, and Ammonia / Ortho- and Total Phosphate / Dissolved Oxygen and Biochemical Oxygen Demand / Fecal Coliform / Conductivity and Density
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