Lesson 7 of 6
In Progress

Module 9: Parameters

June 3, 2021

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”912″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Sediment refers to a mixture of materials, organic and inorganic, that can be carried away by water, wind or ice. While the term is often used to indicate soil-based, mineral matter (e.g. clay, silt, and sand), decomposing organic substances and inorganic biogenic material are also considered sediment. Most mineral sediment comes from erosion and weathering, while organic sediment is typically detritus and decomposing material such as algae.

These particulates are typically small, with clay defined as particles less than 0.00195 mm in diameter, and coarse sand reaching up only to 1.5 mm in diameter 5. However, during a flood or other high flow event, even large rocks can be classified as sediment as they are carried downstream. Sediment is a naturally occurring element in many bodies of water, though it can be influenced by anthropogenic factors.

Suspended or Bedded?

In an aquatic environment, sediment can either be suspended (floating in the water column) or bedded (settled on the bottom of a body of water). When both floating and settled particles are monitored, they are referred to as SABS: Suspended and Bedded Sediments.

Suspended Sediment vs Suspended Solids

Fine sediment can be found in nearly any body of water, carried along by the water flow. When the sediment is floating within the water column it is considered suspended. In this application, the terms “suspended sediment” and “suspended solids” are nearly interchangeable. The main difference between the two is in the method of measurement.

Despite the similarity in meaning, the data provided by the different measurement methods are neither interchangeable nor comparable. The suspended sediment concentration (SSC) is in mg/L by filtering and drying an entire water sample. Total suspended solids (TSS), while also measured in mg/L, are obtained by subsampling. While acceptable for homogenized or well mixed samples with very fine sediment, the TSS measurement often excludes larger suspended particles, like sand. This means that the SSC measurement tends to be higher and more representative of a water body as a whole, often measuring within 5% of the true particle concentration. Due to the incomparability between suspended sediment measurements and total suspended solids measurements, the U.S. Geological Survey recommends SSC analysis over TSS when sampling in surface water.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]