Modelling microbiological water quality in the Seine river drainage network: past, present and future situations

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsServais, P, Billen, G, Goncalves, A, Garcia-Armisen, T
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Start Page1581
Date Published2007

The Seine river watershed is characterized by a high population density and intense agricultural activities. Data show low microbiological water quality in the main rivers (Seine, Marne, Oise) of the watershed. Today, there is an increasing pressure from different social groups to restore microbiological water quality in order to both increase the safety of drinking water production and to restore the possible use of these rivers for bathing and rowing activities, as they were in the past. A model, appended to the hydro-ecological SENEQUE/Riverstrahler model describing the functioning of large river systems, was developed to describe the dynamics of faecal coliforms (FC), the most usual faecal contamination indicator. The model is able to calculate the distribution of FC concentrations in the whole drainage network resulting from land use and wastewater management in the watershed. The model was validated by comparing calculated FC concentrations with available field data for some well-documented situations in different river stretches of the Seine drainage network. Once validated, the model was used to test various predictive scenarios, as, for example, the impact of the modifications in wastewater treatment planned at the 2012 horizon in the Seine watershed in the scope of the implementation of the european water framework directive. The model was also used to investigate past situations. In particular, the variations of the microbiological water quality in the Parisian area due to population increase and modifications in wastewater management were estimated over the last century. It was shown that the present standards for bathing and other aquatic recreational activities are not met in the large tributaries upstream from Paris since the middle of the 1950’s, and at least since the middle of the XIXth century in the main branch of the Seine river downstream from Paris. Efforts carried out for improving urban wastewater treatment in terms or organic matter and nutrient loading resulted in a sensible reduction of microbiological contamination, but were not specific enough toward bacteriological contamination for achieving the objective of restoring levels compatible with bathing activities in the Parisian area.