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Validation of a new measuring system for water turbidity field measurements


Turbidity is an essential parameter for describing water quality by direct and indirect impacts on fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants. Currently, environmental monitoring measurements are carried out with appropriate quality by accredited testing laboratories, but there is also a need for employing the third sector, i.e. citizens and voluntaries in environmental monitoring. A device called “Secchi3000” was developed as a low-cost and simple-to-operate tool so that water quality measurements can also be carried out by non-experts and citizens. The measurement using the new device is simple: The user fills the container with water and places the measurement structure in the container. The user takes a photograph with the camera on a mobile phone through a hole in the lid. The software sends the photograph to a server, which analyses the photographs automatically. Finally, the results are returned to the user’s mobile phone and stored on a database for further analysis. In this study, the measuring system for turbidity measurements in natural waters was validated. Validation included an estimation of the limit of quantification, investigations of the influence of water colour and illumination conditions on turbidity measurement values and the estimation of measurement uncertainty. A comparison of turbidity results obtained with the new device and laboratory instrument in natural water samples was carried out, and turbidity values obtained with different mobile phones were compared. According to the validation results, the new device was appropriate for the measurement of turbidity lower than 7 FNU (Formazine Nephelometric Unit). An algorithm applied for present turbidity calculations is not fully suitable for higher turbidities. For potential routine use, this is not a major problem, since most Finnish natural waters have turbidities lower than 7 FNU. For official monitoring purposes, the limit of the quantification needs to be lower than presently achieved (1.7 FNU). Although the present configuration of the Secchi3000 device is not yet fully suitable for official environmental monitoring, it will already enable the involvement of the third sector in water quality monitoring, and in this way, citizens’ observations could then serve at least as supplementary information for reporting and surveys.

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The Cleen Ltd MMEA programme and Maa-ja vesitekniikan tuki ry are acknowledged for their financial support. This work has also been partially supported by the Graduate School “Functional materials and technologies” receiving funding from the European Social Fund under project 1.2.0401.09-0079 at the University of Tartu, Estonia. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement no. 263287. Rouvim Kadis from D. I. Mendeleyev Institute for Metrology (St. Petersburg) is acknowledged for reviewing the text from metrological point of view. Kirsi Mallat, Jaana Heiskanen, Sirpa Kuvaja and Suvi Paasinummi from SYKE laboratory are acknowledged for their invaluable work in laboratory turbidity measurements. Erika Varkonyi is acknowledged for the graphical work of the figures.

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Correspondence to Teemu Näykki.

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Näykki, T., Koponen, S., Väisänen, T. et al. Validation of a new measuring system for water turbidity field measurements. Accred Qual Assur 19, 175–183 (2014).

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  • Turbidity
  • Field measurement
  • Water quality monitoring
  • Citizen-based monitoring
  • Validation