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Spatio-temporal variation in stream water chemistry in a tropical urban watershed

Alonso Ramírez, University of Puerto Rico, Department of Environmental Sciences
Keysa G. Rosas, University of Puerto Rico, Department of Environmental Sciences
Ariel E. Lugo, USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Olga M. Ramos-González, USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06481-190245

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Abstract

Urban activities and related infrastructure alter the natural patterns of stream physical and chemical conditions. According to the Urban Stream Syndrome, streams draining urban landscapes are characterized by high concentrations of nutrients and ions, and might have elevated water temperatures and variable oxygen concentrations. Here, we report temporal and spatial variability in stream physicochemistry in a highly urbanized watershed in Puerto Rico. The main objective of the study was to describe stream physicochemical characteristics and relate them to urban intensity, e.g., percent impervious surface cover, and watershed infrastructure, e.g., road and pipe densities. The Río Piedras Watershed in the San Juan Metropolitan Area, Puerto Rico, is one of the most urbanized regions on the island. The Río Piedras presented high solute concentrations that were related to watershed factors, such as percent impervious cover. Temporal variability in ion concentrations lacked seasonality, as did all other parameters measured except water temperature, which was lower during winter and highest during summer, as expected based on latitude. Spatially, stream physicochemistry was strongly related to watershed percent impervious cover and also to the density of urban infrastructure, e.g., roads, pipe, and building densities. Although the watershed is serviced by a sewage collection system, illegal discharges and leaky infrastructure are probably responsible for the elevated ion concentration found. Overall, the Río Piedras is an example of the response of a tropical urban watershed after major sewage inputs are removed, thus highlighting the importance of proper infrastructure maintenance and management of runoff to control ion concentrations in tropical streams.

Key words

ion concentrations; nutrient concentrations; Puerto Rico; tropical streams; urban streams; water physicochemistry

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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