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Development and application of an integrated ecological modelling framework to analyze the impact of wastewater discharges on the ecological water quality of rivers
Holguin-Gonzalez, J.E.; Everaert, G.; Boets, P.; Galvis, A.; Goethals, P.L.M. (2013). Development and application of an integrated ecological modelling framework to analyze the impact of wastewater discharges on the ecological water quality of rivers. Environ. Model. Softw. 48: 27-36. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2013.06.004
In: Environmental Modelling & Software. Elsevier: Oxford. ISSN 1364-8152; e-ISSN 1873-6726, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Fresh water
Author keywords
    Integrated ecological modelling; Habitat suitability models; MIKE 11; Multi-model inference; Information-theoretic approach

Authors  Top 
  • Holguin-Gonzalez, J.E., more
  • Everaert, G., more
  • Boets, P., more
  • Galvis, A.
  • Goethals, P.L.M., more

Abstract
    Modelling is an effective tool to investigate the ecological state of water resources. In developing countries, the impact of sanitation infrastructures (e.g. wastewater treatment plants) is typically assessed considering the achievement of legal physicochemical quality standards, but ignoring the ecological water quality (EWQ) of the receiving river. In this paper, we developed a generic integrated ecological modelling framework quantifying the impact of wastewater discharges on the EWQ of the Cauca river (Colombia). The framework is flexible enough to be used in conjunction with different approaches/models and integrates a hydraulic and physicochemical water quality model with aquatic ecological models. Two types of ecological models were developed, habitat suitability models for selected macroinvertebrate groups and ecological assessment models based on a macroinvertebrate biotic index. Four pollution control scenarios were tested. It was found that the foreseen investments in sanitation infrastructure will lead to modest improvements of the EWQ, with an increase lower than six units of the ecological index BMWP-Colombia. Advanced investments, such as the collection and treatment of all wastewater produced by the cities of Cali, Yumbo and Palmira and upgrading of the treatment systems should be considered to achieve a good EWQ. The results show that the integration of ecological models in hydraulic and physicochemical water quality models (e.g. MIKE 11) has an added value for decision support in river management and water policy. The integration of models is a key aspect for the success in environmental decision making. The main limitation of this approach is the availability of physicochemical, hydraulic and biological data that are collected simultaneously. Therefore, a change in the river monitoring strategy towards collection of data which include simultaneous measurements of these variables is required.

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