USGS Sharpening Water-Quality Management Tools

by Phillip E. Greeson, Coordinator; River-Quality Assessment Program, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Va.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1979, Vol. 49, Issue 2, Pg. 92-94

Document Type: Feature article


By 1983, the U.S. will have spent over $83 billion to upgrade treatment facilities to advanced waste treatment. Much of this furious effort will be in vain, won't produce significant increases in stream quality. Why? Because the decision to upgrade is often based on legislative decree — rather than a scientific analysis of a river's needs. For several years now, the U.S. Geological Survey, through its river-quality assessment program, has been trying to develop the tools to answer such questions. On the Willamette River, for instance, USGS developed a math model that showed upgrading existing secondary plants to advanced waste treatment would not significantly improve water quality. Instead, the model indicated the best thing to do would be to remove the ammonia from a handful of industrial discharges then to concentrate on curbing non-point-source pollution. Most math models being used are inadequate — based on poor data.

Subject Headings: Waste treatment plants | Mathematical models | Federal government | Water quality | Rivers and streams | Mathematics | Hydrologic models | Water treatment plants

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