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J Environ Monit. 2010 Dec;12(12):2216-25. doi: 10.1039/c0em00221f. Epub 2010 Nov 15.

Chemical monitoring of river water bodies in an EU outermost region: examples from the Azores archipelago (Portugal).

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CVARG - Centre of Volcanology and Geological Hazards Assessment, Department of Geosciences, University of Azores, Apartado 1422, 9501-801, Ponta Delgada, Portugal.


Chemical monitoring of water quality on a total of 16 rivers in the Azores archipelago (Portugal), since 2003, made it possible to identify the major pressures and spatial geochemical variations along main course of the rivers. River water pollution is to a large extent associated to point sources, namely domestic wastewater discharges, especially in urban areas, and diffuse sources, associated with pasture land, and explain the high values on BOD(5) and nutrients (P and N). Heavy metals and metalloids, as well as hydrocarbons and pesticides, are generally under the detection limits of the analytical methods. Generally, river water reflects pollution loads according to a simple model, derived from land use in the watershed: in the upper part conditions are pristine, in the intermediate portion of the basin pasture land dominates and near the coast urban discharges are increasingly important. Results stress the role that an approach based on the watershed scale, coupled with land use management measures, are crucial to water management procedures and a successful WFD implementation in small river basin districts like the Azores. The paper also shows the need for full compliance regarding EU directives on urban wastewater and nitrate pollution due to agriculture.

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