Tail water from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) serves as a major supplementary water source for scenic water bodies, whose water quality is one of the major focuses of public and scientific inquiries. This study investigated the temporal and spatial variations in water quality of Tangxihe River, a eutrophic urban river receiving tail water from a nearby WWTP in Hefei City, using the single-factor index (SFI) and principal component analysis (PCA). The results of SFI indicated that the most important parameters responsible for low water quality were total nitrogen (TN) and ammonia (NH4+-N). PCA showed that tail water from the WWTP greatly reduced water quality, as demonstrated by the significantly increased SFIs and integrated principal component values (F values) of the sampling points around the drain outlet of the WWTP (T3, T4 and T5). The sampling points located at the upstream of the river (T1) and up the water-gate of Chaohu Lake (T6) had negative F values, indicating relatively higher water quality. In addition, the season had a significant effect on the water quality of the river. Moreover, we discuss measures to improve the water quality of urban rivers in order to maintain their ecological functions.

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