Conceptual river water quality models are widely known to lack identifiability. The causes for that can be due to model structure errors, observational errors and less frequent samplings. Although significant efforts have been directed towards better identification of river water quality models, it is not clear whether a given model is structurally identifiable. Information is also limited regarding the contribution of different unidentifiability sources. Taking the widely applied CSTR river water quality model as an example, this paper presents a theoretical proof that the CSTR model is indeed structurally identifiable. Its uncertainty is thus dominantly from observational errors and less frequent samplings. Given the current monitoring accuracy and sampling frequency, the unidentifiability from sampling frequency is found to be more significant than that from observational errors. It is also noted that there is a crucial sampling frequency between 0.1 and 1 day, over which the simulated river system could be represented by different illusions and the model application could be far less reliable.

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