Water quality is a term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually with respect to its suitability for a particular purpose or designated use. Examples of designated uses of water bodies in Alabama include public water supply, shellfish harvesting, swimming, fish and wildlife, agriculture, and industry.
The chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, or water quality parameters as they often are called, determine whether the quality of water is good enough for drinking, recreation, irrigation, aquatic life, or other designated uses. By examining these parameters along with their interactions with each other and the surrounding environment, we can assess the overall condition of a body of water.
These parameters also indicate the health of a watershed. Because all watersheds are connected across the landscape, the quality of a body of water is a great indicator not only of how well that watershed is functioning but how well the surrounding watersheds are functioning.