The The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) quality

The surface waters of canals and rivers are highly susceptible to
pollution and the influences of the surrounding environment (Singh et al., 2004). Changes in anthropogenic
processes and seasonal variation can alter water quality. Pollutants come from a wide range of sources, including
residential, agricultural and industrial runoff, along with activities like oil
spills, inappropriate disposal of waste and burning fossil fuels, which
re-enter surface waters in the form of acid rain (Bricker & Rice, 2003;
Barakat et al., 2016). Physical
processes and storm water runoff also contribute to the contamination, in the
form of non-point pollution. Urban runoff during storm events introduces
pollutants to surface waters in the form of debris, street cleaning chemicals
and waste washed from vehicles (Sartor, 1974). Fluctuations in precipitation’s
intensity and duration, as well as seasonal changes in temperature can affect
pollutant loads and concentrations (Vega et
al., 1998; Barakat et al., 2016).


In order to
protect surface water from degradation, a number of policies and directives
have been established to protect the environment. The Urban Waste Water
Directive of 1991 was introduced to help minimise the damaging effects of
industrial and urban waste water. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) aims to
“improve and protect rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater
within Europe”, to achieve good ecological and chemical standing (WFD, 2000; Flannery
et al.,2010; Schmidt et al., 2013). Other directives,
including Integrated Pollution Prevention, and Control, Habitats and Nitrates
Directive, now form part of the WFD (Schmidt et al., 2013; WDF, 2000). The underpinning of these directives is
to limit the effects of waste water by reducing the amount of suspended organic
and inorganic material that enters surface waters, therefore prohibiting
serious ecological impacts within the environment (Schmidt et al., 2013).

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The Environmental
Protection Agency’s (EPA) quality classification system
(Q- Values) (EPA, 2017) has been in use since 1971 to help assess water
quality in streams, rivers and canals in Ireland. This technique is
predominantly based on macroinvertebrate communities, combined with water quality
testing, to produce a comprehensive description of the ecological status of the
survey site (Toner et al., 2005). The
identification and monitoring of macroinvertebrates in assessing water quality
through Q–Values, is the most sensitive ecological assessment tool (Kelly et al., 2006). Macroinvertebrates are
the main biological element within a waterway system. They act as indicators
for detecting organic pollution, nutrient enrichment impacts and are sensitive
to changes in the sediment (EPA, 2015; Kelly et al., 2006). 


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