Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Water

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You don't often think that water bodies contain oxygen, but water does contain a small amount of dissolved oxygen. A small amount, but it is essential for life in the water. Biological oxygen demand (BOD) generally represents how much oxygen is needed to break down organic matter in water.

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Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Water

Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) represents the amount of oxygen consumed by bacteria and other microorganisms while they decompose organic matter under aerobic (oxygen is present) conditions at a specified temperature.

When you look at water in a lake the one thing you don't see is oxygen. In a way, we think that water is the opposite of air, but the common lake or stream does contain small amounts of oxygen, in the form of dissolved oxygen. Although the amount of dissolved oxygen is small, up to about ten molecules of oxygen per million of water, it is a crucial component of natural water bodies; the presence of a sufficient concentration of dissolved oxygen is critical to maintaining the aquatic life and aesthetic quality of streams and lakes.

The presence of a sufficient concentration of dissolved oxygen is critical to maintaining the aquatic life and aesthetic quality of streams and lakes. Determining how organic matter affects the concentration of dissolved oxygen (DO) in a stream or lake is integral to water- quality management. The decay of organic matter in water is measured as biochemical or chemical oxygen demand.  Oxygen demand is a measure of the amount of oxidizable substances in a water sample that can lower DO concentrations.

Certain environmental stresses (hot summer temperatures) and other human-induced factors (introduction of excess fertilizers to a water body) can lessen the amount of dissolved oxygen in a water body, resulting in stresses on the local aquatic life. One water analysis that is utilized in order to better understand the effect of bacteria and other microorganisms on the amount of oxygen they consume as they decompose organic matter under aerobic (oxygen is present) is the measure of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD).

Determining how organic matter affects the concentration of dissolved oxygen in a stream or lake is integral to water-quality management. BOD is a measure of the amount of oxygen required to remove waste organic matter from water in the process of decomposition by aerobic bacteria (those bacteria that live only in an environment containing oxygen). The waste organic matter is stabilized or made unobjectionable through its decomposition by living bacterial organisms which need oxygen to do their work. BOD is used, often in wastewater-treatment plants, as an index of the degree of organic pollution in water.