Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 184, Issue 11, pp 7053–7063 | Cite as

The impact of traditional coffee processing on river water quality in Ethiopia and the urgency of adopting sound environmental practices

  • Abebe BeyeneEmail author
  • Yared Kassahun
  • Taffere Addis
  • Fassil Assefa
  • Aklilu Amsalu
  • Worku Legesse
  • Helmut Kloos
  • Ludwig Triest


Although waste from coffee processing is a valuable resource to make biogas, compost, and nutrient-rich animal food, it is usually dumped into nearby water courses. We carried out water quality assessment at 44 sampling sites along 18 rivers that receive untreated waste from 23 coffee pulping and processing plants in Jimma Zone, Ethiopia. Twenty upstream sampling sites free from coffee waste impact served as control, and 24 downstream sampling sites affected by coffee waste were selected for comparison. Physicochemical and biological results revealed a significant river water quality deterioration as a result of disposing untreated coffee waste into running water courses. During coffee-processing (wet) season, the highest organic load (1,900 mg/l), measured as biochemical oxygen demand, depleted dissolved oxygen (DO) to a level less than 0.01 mg/l, and thus curtailed nitrification. During off season, oxygen started to recuperate and augmented nitrification. The shift from significantly elevated organic load and reduced DO in the wet season to increased nitrate in the off season was found to be the determining factor for the difference in macroinvertebrate community structure as verified by ordination analysis. Macroinvertebrate diversity was significantly reduced in impacted sites during the wet season contrary to the off season. However, there was a significant difference in the ratio of sensitive to pollution-tolerant taxa in the off season, which remained depreciated in the longer term. This study highlights the urgency of research exploring on the feasibility of adopting appropriate pollution abatement technologies to implement ecologically sound coffee-processing systems in coffee-growing regions of Ethiopia.


Coffee processing Waste River pollution Macroinvertebrates Ethiopia 



We are very grateful for Addis Ababa University, Jimma Agricultural Research Center, and Jimma University, Ethiopia and International Foundation for Science (IFS), Sweden for their financial and logistic support. We are also thankful to Mr. Tesfu Kebede, Tadesse Eshetu, Amana Jemal, and Daniel Sahle for their assistance during the field work and laboratory analysis. The research of Abebe Beyene was supported with a grant from the OWS (VUB).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abebe Beyene
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yared Kassahun
    • 3
  • Taffere Addis
    • 1
  • Fassil Assefa
    • 4
  • Aklilu Amsalu
    • 5
  • Worku Legesse
    • 1
  • Helmut Kloos
    • 6
  • Ludwig Triest
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Environmental HealthJimma UniversityJimmaEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of BiologyVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Jimma Agricultural Research CenterJimmaEthiopia
  4. 4.Department of BiologyAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  5. 5.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  6. 6.University of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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