Wastewater treatment plant effluent inputs induce large biogeochemical changes during low flows in an intermittent streambut small changes in day-night patterns

Bernal, Susana Drummond, Jennifer D. Castelar, Sara Gacia, Esperança Ribot, MiquelMartí, Eugènia.  Science of the Total Environment 714 : 136733 (2020)  DIGITAL CSIC 

Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents alter stream water chemistry and metabolic activity. Yet, essential aspects influencing the biogeochemical response of receiving streams such as hydrology and diel oscillations of light and temperature remain largely unexplored.We measured day vs night water chemistry and in-stream net nutrient uptake velocity (Vf) in an intermittent forested stream, upstream and downstreamof aWWTP effluent under contrasting hydrological conditions. TheWWTP effluent negatively influenced stream water chemistry, especially during the dry period. Despite large diel oscillations in light inputs, day-night differences in nutrient and oxygen concentrations were small, suggesting that heterotrophic respiration drove stream metabolism with a minor contribution of gross primary production. The magnitude of Vf was similar between day and night at the two reaches. Yet, at the downstream reach, in-stream net DIN uptake occurred more often at night, and values of Vf for ammonia and nitrite indicated enhanced in-stream nitrification. The two reaches showed a small capacity to retain DIN and soluble reactive phosphorus from the water column. Positive values of instream net nutrient uptake (i.e. uptake N release) occurred mostly during the dry period, highlighting that instreambiogeochemical processing can contribute to improvewater quality in streams receiving point-sources effluents in regions with low water availability.