Freshwater reservoirs can be impacted by several hazardous substances through inputs from agricultural activity, sewage discharges, and groundwater leaching and runoff. The water quality assessment is very important for implementation of the monitoring and remediation programs to minimize the risk promoted by hazardous substances in aquatic ecosystems. Evaluation of the degree of contamination of aquatic environments must not take in account only its chemical characterization but it must be complemented with biological assays, which determine potential toxic effects and allows an integrated evaluation of its effects in populations and aquatic ecosystem communities. The application of this type of strategy has clear advantages allowing a general evaluation of the effects from all the water components, including those due to unknown substances and synergic, antagonistic, or additive effects. There are only a few studies that reported ecotoxicological acute end points, for the assessment of surface water quality, and the relationship among toxicity results and the anthropogenic pollution sources and the seasonal period. The aim of this study was to assess the ecotoxicological characterization of the surface water from Alqueva reservoir (South of Portugal) and to evaluate the influence of anthropogenic sources of pollution and their seasonal variation in its toxicity. The construction of Alqueva reservoir was recently finished (2002) and, to our knowledge, an ecotoxicological assessment of its surface water has not been performed. Because of that, no information is available on the possible impact of pollutants on the biota. The surface water toxicity was assessed using acute and chronic bioassays. The results are to be used for developing a monitoring program, including biological methods.
Water samples were collected during 2006-2007, at each of the nine sampling sites selected in Alqueva reservoir. These sampling points allow an assessment at the upstream (Sra. Ajuda, Alcarrache, Alamos-Captação), at the middle (Alqueva-Montante, Alqueva-Mourão, Lucefecit), and at the downstream of the water line (Alqueva-Jusante; Ardila-confluência; Moinho das Barcas). The campaigns occurred in February, March, May, July, September, and November of 2006 and February, March, and May of 2007. The rainy season comprised November, February, and March, and the dry season included May, July, and September. A total of 81 samples were collected during the study period. The physical-chemical parameters were analyzed following standard and recommended methods of analysis (APHA et al. 1998). The pesticide analyses were performed using gas chromatography according to DIN EN ISO 6468 (1996). Surface water ecotoxicity was evaluated using the following bioassays: Vibrio fischeri luminescence inhibition, Thamnocephalus platyurus mortality, and Daphnia magna immobilization and reproduction assay. The Spearman rank correlation coefficients were used to evaluate the associations between the water sample physicochemical properties (from each sampling station in each season) and the acute and chronic toxicological effects, with a level of significance p < 0.05.
In the acute toxicity study, the species that was found to be the most sensitive was T. platyurus. T. platyurus detected a higher number of toxic water samples during the dry season. Concerning the luminescent inhibition of V. fischeri, the results showed that this organism detected a great number of toxic water samples in rainy seasons. The water samples, which promoted higher toxic effects towards this species, were from the north and from the middle of the reservoir. The correlation analysis showed that V. fischeri luminescent inhibition (%) was positively correlated with total phosphorus, chlorpyrifos, iron, and arsenic. T. platyurus mortality (%) was positively correlated with the water pH, 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD(5)), chlorides, atrazine, simazine, terbuthylazine, and endosulfan sulfate contents. Although the surface waters did not promote acute toxicity to the crustacean D. magna, in the chronic exposure, a significant decrease in the number of juveniles per female was observed, mainly at the dry period. The number of juveniles per female, in the reproduction test of D. magna, was negatively correlated with pH, temperature, BOD(5), chloride, atrazine, simazine, terbuthylazine, and endosulfan sulfate. The water toxicity of the Alqueva water might be due principally to the intensive agriculture activities surrounding the reservoir and to the municipal wastewater discharges.
The physicochemical parameters and the pesticide concentrations indicated that the water quality was worse in the north part of the reservoir system. These results are characteristic of the majority of reservoirs, once the construction of the dam promoted, by itself, the impounding of water flow and the increase of compound residence time. The toxicity tests corroborate with the chemical characterization. Acute toxicity of Alqueva water may be a result of the effect promoted by chlorpyrifos, endosulfan sulfate, phosphorus, and iron. Chronic toxicity may be a result of the effect of herbicides, arsenic, organic matter, endosulfan sulfate in mixture. Hence, the water toxicity of the Alqueva might be due principally to the intensive agriculture activities surrounding the reservoir and to the municipal wastewater discharges.
This study has shown that a large number of samples from different sites of the Alqueva reservoir contained potentially toxic contaminants. The sites with impaired water quality were those located at the north of the reservoir and in the surrounding areas of intensive agricultural activity. The results demonstrated that the use of a screening of acute and chronic toxicity tests with organisms from different trophic levels and with distinct sensibilities allowed the detections of several patterns of toxicity from spatial and temporal variability promoted by natural or anthropogenic sources. The chronic responses showed, especially in the dry season, that some of the species belonging to this aquatic ecosystem might be at risk.
The V. fischeri and T. platyurus are two species that should be used in the acute bioassays for the ecotoxicological monitoring programs of this reservoir. It is recommended that other species, such as a productive organism (algae), be included in the next study, once the water reservoir had high levels of herbicides. Ecotoxicological assessment of surface water must integrate initial screening based on acute tests followed always by chronic bioassays. The results implicitly suggest that the implementation of processes of remediation by reducing pollutant input into the reservoir and by the implementation of water treatment processes is important and necessary.