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Turbidity indicates the degree to which light is scattered in water by suspended particulate material and soluble colored compounds. It provides an estimate of the muddiness or cloudiness of the water due to clay, silt, finely divided organic and inorganic matter, soluble colored organic compounds, plankton, and microscopic organisms. In streams, a major cause of elevated turbidity is disturbed and eroding soils carried by storm run-off to streams. Once in the stream system, elevated turbidity reduces the depth of photosynthesis and the feeding ability of aquatic organisms. When soils settle out in downstream reaches with slower flow, bed substrate becomes embedded, removing essential habitat for aquatic insects and other organisms.

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