Phosphorus status of stream waters in Puerto Rico: 1989-19971


Total P concentration
Surface-water quality

How to Cite

Sotomayor-Ramírez, D., Martínez, G., & Olivieri, L. J. (2001). Phosphorus status of stream waters in Puerto Rico: 1989-19971. The Journal of Agriculture of the University of Puerto Rico, 85(1-2), 1–15.


Elevated phosphorus (P) concentrations in Puerto Rico's surface waters are suspected to be the primary cause of observed eutrophication.This paper summarizes total P concentrations (TP), historical trends, and relationships between biological and chemical parameters at twenty-two surface water monitoring stations of eleven rivers from 1989 through 1997. Four rivers had median TP concentrations in excess of 0.1 mg P/L (which is considered a threshold limit for eutrophication). The remaining seven rivers, excluding Rio Guajataca, had at least 25% of the sampling episodes exceeding 0.1 mg P/L. When all data (n = 539) were considered, TP in the central 50% of the samples (25 to 75 interquartile range) ranged from 0.04 to 0.29, with mean and median values of 0.30 and 0.09 mg P/L, respectively. Pearson correlation coefficients between TP and fecal coliform bacteria, fecal streptococcal bacteria, and total Kjeidhal nitrogen were 0.38, 0.36, and 0.84, respectively, for all the rivers combined. For rivers with the highest TP concentrations differing relationships between TP and biological and chemical parameters were obtained, thus suggesting that diverse sources were contributing to P loads in rivers. Excluding two stations in Rio Grande de Añasco and Rio Grande de Arecibo, the trend was for TP concentrations to decrease or not change from 1989 to 1997. Approximately half of the variation in P loads in all rivers combined was due to instantaneous hydrologic flow discharge, a finding which corroborates our hypothesis that a number of factors (agricultural non-point sources, background non-point sources, point sources) are contributing to the observed TP concentrations.


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