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An analysis of the impact of human activities on water quality and ecological responses in the Suez Irrigation Canal

Maha Mahmoud Ali (Central Laboratory for Environmental Quality Monitoring (CLEQM), National Water Research Center, Qalubia, Egypt)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 18 April 2008




The Suez Irrigation Canal is the source of drinking water to a large community. Complaints have been raised regarding the odor and unpleasant taste of drinking water. The problems encountered reveled enrichment of the Canal with nutrients, degraded water quality and nuisance caused by algal growth. This paper aims to investigate these claims by evaluating the interaction between water and sediment with ecological indicators.


Bioassessments were used as a primary tool to evaluate the biological conditions and identify the degree of water quality degradation in the Suez Irrigation Canal. The monitoring program integrates biological, chemical, and physical data assessment. Several field surveys were carried out to these areas during the period between March 2003 and February 2005 (over 23 months) for acquiring all possible information about the current situation and to explore the impact of human activities along the canal banks on the canal ecosystem. Seasonal variations of phytoplankton and zooplankton standing crop, species diversity as well as physico‐chemical characteristics of water, sediment, fish and aquatic weeds at the intakes of drinking plants and from the discharge of agricultural and domestic drains into the Canal were investigated.


Preliminary field investigations showed great amounts of discharged wastes at several locations to the canal water creating unique conditions, which vary with changes of volume and properties of the discharged wastes. Rotifer and green algae for example demonstrated seasonal variable response to the ecological variations. Myriophyllum spicatum, Potamageton nodsus and Polygonum Salicfolium were the most common types of recorded weed. The Myriophyllum spicatum is the dominant submerged plant. The canal was characterized by high concentrations of HCO3 as well as high pH >8.2 which provides a favorable habitat for the growth of Myriophyllum spicatum. The results illustrated the ability of using the aquatic weed as biomarkers for monitoring heavy metals contaminates in the canal. The evidence suggests that there is a degree of selectivity in metals uptake and partitioning within the plant compartments.


The current paper adopts the idea of utilizing multiple organism groups in the bioassessment to effectively detect ecological change when they occur in one of the most important waterways in Egypt. These different organism groups are suited for detection various stressors, providing warnings and detection of stress impacts at different scales. The study presented provides decision makers with important information that can assist them in making objective decisions related to the design of monitoring programs based on scientific research.



Mahmoud Ali, M. (2008), "An analysis of the impact of human activities on water quality and ecological responses in the Suez Irrigation Canal", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 377-401.



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