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Population density controls on microbial pollution across the Ganga catchment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David MilledgeORCiD, Joshua Bunce



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2017 The Authors For millions of people worldwide, sewage-polluted surface waters threaten water security, food security and human health. Yet the extent of the problem and its causes are poorly understood. Given rapid widespread global urbanisation, the impact of urban versus rural populations is particularly important but unknown. Exploiting previously unpublished archival data for the Ganga (Ganges) catchment, we find a strong non-linear relationship between upstream population density and microbial pollution, and predict that these river systems would fail faecal coliform standards for irrigation waters available to 79% of the catchment's 500 million inhabitants. Overall, this work shows that microbial pollution is conditioned by the continental-scale network structure of rivers, compounded by the location of cities whose growing populations contribute c. 100 times more microbial pollutants per capita than their rural counterparts.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Milledge DG, Gurjar SK, Bunce JT, Tare V, Sinha R, Carbonneau PE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Research

Year: 2018

Volume: 128

Pages: 82-91

Print publication date: 01/01/2018

Online publication date: 27/10/2017

Acceptance date: 17/10/2017

Date deposited: 09/07/2018

ISSN (print): 0043-1354

ISSN (electronic): 1879-2448

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.10.033


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