Anthropogenic influence on the water quality in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Guanabara Bay is a 384-km2 coastal bay with 70% of the population of the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro located within its drainage basin. The water quality of the Bay is impacted by domestic and industrial runoff, of which only 15% has been adequately treated. However, based on a 14-year monitoring program, the water quality for most of Guanabara Bay remains acceptable because of intense tidal flushing, and we failed to find a worsening of conditions during the 14-year study. The inner shallow regions of the Bay, the western and northwestern parts, receive most of the drainage from metropolitan Rio de Janeiro. It is here that the water quality is alarmingly poor, characterized by hypertrophic conditions and occasional hypoxic events. Fecal coliform counts in these inner reaches of the Bay are 4–100 times higher than the maximum acceptable count for recreational waters. Hypertrophic conditions prevail in Guanabara Bay, which is characterized by low dissolved oxygen, high biochemical oxygen demand, peaks in fecal coliform, and extremely high chlorophyll-a concentrations, which reflect high quantities of nutrients entering the system. These anthropogenic pressures are a threat to planktonic and benthic communities and are reminiscent of San Francisco Bay 30 years ago. The Guanabara Bay water quality could be returned to pre-1950 conditions, but it would require sufficient political will and economic investment to ensure that at least 80–90% of the domestic and industrial sewage were treated adequately.
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