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Image of a thermometer.Water Quality Assessment: Physical: Temperature
The most common physical assessment of water quality is the measurement of temperature. Temperature impacts both the chemical and biological characteristics of surface water. It affects the dissolved oxygen level in the water, photosynthesis of aquatic plants, metabolic rates of aquatic organisms, and the sensitivity of these organisms to pollution, parasites and disease.

Thermal pollution is the introduction of water that is warmer than the body of water into which it flows. It generally occurs near power plants. These industries discharge hot water that has been used to cool equipment directly into streams. Another source of thermal pollution is urban runoff. This is water that has been heated as it flowed over parking lots, streets and sidewalks. Plowing near streams or the removal of the forest canopy during construction also contributes to thermal pollution by decreasing shade, thereby increasing solar heating of the water's surface. In addition to increasing the amount of solar radiation reaching the water's surface, removal of vegetation near streams often results in increased erosion and increased amounts of sediments in the water. The sediments absorb heat from sunlight rather than reflect it. This heats the water further. Image 1999 -www.arttoday.com

Warm water is less capable of holding dissolved oxygen. For this reason, temperature should be measured at the same place within the stream at which dissolved oxygen is measured. This allows the correlation between the two parameters to be observed.

The problem of low dissolved oxygen levels is magnified by the fact that the metabolic rates of aquatic plants increase as water temperature rises, thus increasing their biochemical oxygen demand. Low dissolved oxygen levels leave aquatic organisms in a weakened physical state and more susceptible to disease, parasites, and other pollutants.

 

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