• surface water quality;
  • urbanization;
  • eutrophication;
  • metal stress;
  • the Grand Canal of China


Rapid urbanization leads to degradations upon water quality via eutrophication and pollution, but there are a lack of studies on patterns of water quality change to urbanization by level or process. China has achieved the most rapid urbanization in the world within the past three decades, and its urban development is diverse at level. Nine towns and cities at various development levels along the historic Grand Canal (approximately 1500 years old) were selected to reveal direct linkages between surface water quality and extent of urbanization. Surface water quality in the urban sections of the Grand Canal was impaired by both eutrophic nitrogen and phosphorus and metals. Although metals mostly remained at concentrations permissible to the Chinese National Environmental Standard for Surface Water Quality (GB3838-2002), the concentrations of metals in most urban canal water might impose an unacceptable effect on aquatic communities according to the Criterion Continuous Concentration from the National Recommended Water Quality Criteria for Priority Toxic Pollutants (US EPA 2006). The loadings of metals in the urban canal were found relating to local industrial activities. The level of urbanization, in this study, was significantly related to water quality parameters in a descending order of electrical conductivity > nutrients > metals. This study suggests that significant mitigation strategies are required for the Grand Canal of China for a sustainable urbanization goal. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.