An important tool in environmental management projects and studies due to the complexity of environmental systems, environmental modeling makes it possible to integrate many variables and processes, thereby providing a dynamic view of systems. In this study the bacteriological quality of the coastal waters of Fortaleza (a state capital in Northeastern Brazil) was modeled considering multiple contamination sources. Using the software SisBaHiA, the dispersion of thermotolerant coliforms and Escherichia coli from three sources of contamination (local rivers, storm drains and submarine outfall) was analyzed. The models took into account variations in bacterial decay due to solar radiation and other environmental factors. Fecal pollution discharged from rivers and storm drains is transported westward by coastal currents, contaminating strips of beach water to the left of each storm drain or river. Exception to this condition only occurs on beaches protected by the breakwater of the harbor, where counterclockwise vortexes reverse this behavior. The results of the models were consistent with field measurements taken during the dry and the rainy season. Our results show that the submarine outfall plume was over 2 km from the nearest beach. The storm drains and the Maceió stream are the main factors responsible for the poor water quality on the waterfront of Fortaleza. The depollution of these sources would generate considerable social, health and economic gains for the region.

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