Changes in Water Quality Characteristics and Pollutant Sources Along a Major River Basin in Canada

  • Jianxun He
  • M. Cathryn Ryan
  • Caterina ValeoEmail author
Part of the Springer Earth System Sciences book series (SPRINGEREARTH)


Temporal and spatial variations of water quality along the Bow River (Alberta, Canada) were investigated using monthly water quality data (chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium, and conductivity) collected from 2004 to 2011. Non-point and point (notably three wastewater treatment plants) pollutant loads were characterized along the river. The river was divided into three reaches, namely, the Upper river reach, the Calgary reach, and the Downstream river reach, based on the distribution of point pollutant sources and geographic conditions. A mass balance approach and statistical analyses were employed to analyze water quality. The results demonstrated that the point sources, Calgary’s three wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), are largely responsible for the observed spatial and temporal trends in the investigated quality parameters. However, the contribution of non-point sources appears to vary along the river, which might be related to the flow pathways taken by non-point pollutants discharging into the river and the geochemical characteristics of the groundwater within the alluvial aquifer that is hydraulically connected to the river. Apart from the identified point and non-point sources, the effects of other processes such as biological reactions need to be further ascertained and quantified for a better assessment of pollutant loads, in particular nutrients. Further understanding of these issues will allow a more accurate quantification of pollutant loads and consequently, better knowledge for formulating reliable water quality management strategies.


River water quality variations Surface non-point pollutants Subsurface pollutants Groundwater pollutant loads Anthropogenic impacts Wastewater treatment impacts Alluvial aquifer 



The authors thank the City of Calgary and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development for providing data.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Civil EngineeringUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.GeoscienceUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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