Water quality of Nilwala River, Sri Lanka in relation to land use practices



The Nilwala River is the third largest in the southern province of Sri Lanka which runs through 72 km along its cause. Conversion of forest lands to agricultural lands, expansion of urban areas and clearing of land for construction purposes in the catchment are major issues affecting water quality in Nilwala River. The water quality of the Nilwala River lower basin at 16 locations was estimated for 4 months from September2010 to December 2010 in two-week intervals. Water quality parameters pH, Electrical conductivity(EC), Dissolved oxygen (DO), Biochemical Oxygen demand (BOD5), turbidity, colour, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), total hardness, alkalinity, Nitrite-N (NO2--N), Nitrate -N (NO3--N), Phosphate (PO43- -P), Sulphate (SO43-), Total Fe, Ca2+, F- and Cl- were evaluated in the sampling locations. The spatial and temporal variation of water quality associated with different land use categories were analyzed using Two-way ANOVA. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Cluster Analysis (CA) were also conducted to determine the association between water quality variation and land use impacts of the catchment. A significant (p <0.05) spatial variation of water quality parameters, except the hardness, Fluoride and Ca+2among sites were observed to be associated with different land use categories. No significant (p >0.05) temporal variability in water quality parameters except Nitrite and hardness was detected. PCA and CA also indicated a strong association between the water quality variables and the land use types of the river basin. Urban impacts, land clearance in the catchment and sand mining activities of the river bed were found to be the most significant impacts to the water quality of the river and areas with forest cover having positive impact to the water quality. These findings emphasize the need of better catchment management approaches and remediation of urban impacts on river water quality.

Keywords: Land use; Multivariate Analysis; Nilwala River; Urbanization; Water quality

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