Key factors influencing differences in stream water quality across space

A. Lintern, J. A. Webb, D. Ryu, Shuci Liu, U. Bende-Michl, D. Waters, P Leahy, P. Wilson, A. W. Western

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


Globally, many rivers are experiencing declining water quality, for example, with altered levels of sediments, salts, and nutrients. Effective water quality management requires a sound understanding of how and why water quality differs across space, both within and between river catchments. Land cover, land use, land management, atmospheric deposition, geology and soil type, climate, topography, and catchment hydrology are the key features of a catchment that affect: (1) the amount of suspended sediment, nutrient, and salt concentrations in catchments (i.e., the source), (2) the mobilization,and (3) the delivery of these constituents to receiving waters. There are, however, complexities in the relationship between landscape characteristics and stream water quality. The strength of this relationship can be influenced by the distance and spatial arrangement of constituent sources within the catchment, cross correlations between landscape characteristics, and seasonality. A knowledge gap that should be addressed in future studies is that of interactions and cross correlations between landscape characteristics. There is currently limited understanding of how the relationships between landscape characteristics and water quality responses can shift based on the other characteristics of the catchment. Understanding the many forces driving stream water quality and the complexities and interactions in these forces is necessary for the development of successful water quality management strate-gies. This knowledge could be used to develop predictive models, which would aid in forecasting of riverine water quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1260
Number of pages31
JournalWIREs Water
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

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