Biochemical oxygen demand or B.O.D. is a chemical procedure for determining the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms in a body of water to break down organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over a specific time period. It is not a precise quantitative test, although it is widely used as an indication of the organic quality of water. It is most commonly expressed in milligrams of oxygen consumed per liter of sample during 5 days of incubation at 20°C and is often used as a robust surrogate of the degree of organic pollution of water.
BOD directly affects the amount of dissolved oxygen in rivers and streams. The rate of oxygen consumption is affected by a number of variables: temperature, pH, the presence of certain kinds of microorganisms, and the type of organic and inorganic material in the water.
The greater the BOD, the more rapidly oxygen is depleted in the stream. This means less oxygen is available to higher forms of aquatic life. The consequences of high BOD are the same as those for low dissolved oxygen: aquatic organisms become stressed, suffocate, and die.
Sources of BOD include topsoil, leaves and woody debris; animal manure; effluents from pulp and paper mills, wastewater treatment plants, feedlots, and food-processing plants; failing septic systems; and urban stormwater runoff.
BOD is affected by the same factors that affect dissolved oxygen. BOD measurement requires taking two measurements. One is measured immediately for dissolved oxygen (initial), and the second is incubated in the lab for 5 days and then tested for the amount of dissolved oxygen remaining (final). This represents the amount of oxygen consumed by microorganisms to break down the organic matter present in the sample during the incubation period.
View our optical ProOBOD probe and learn more about this technology or read our tech note: Accurate BOD Measurements with Electrochemical and Optical Probes.