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Terms & Synonyms


Official WHO Definition

The enhancement of the natural process of biological production in rivers, lakes and reservoirs, caused by increases in levels of nutrients, usually phosphorus and nitrogen compounds (WHO 1989).

Eutrophication can result in visible cyanobacterial or algal blooms, surface scums, floating plant mats and benthic macrophyte aggregations. The decay of this organic matter may lead to the depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water, which in turn can cause secondary problems such as fish mortality from lack of oxygen and liberation of toxic substances or phosphates that were previously bound to oxidised sediments. Phosphates released from sediments accelerate eutrophication, thus closing a positive feedback cycle (WHO 1989).

Other Definitions

Generally, the natural or man-induced process by which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved mineral nutrients (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plants and enhances organic production of the water body. Excessive enrichment may result in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and eventually to species mortlity and replacements.


Interpretations and Explanations


WHO (1989) Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater and excreta in agriculture and aquaculture: Measures for public health protection 

WHO Lexicon page (translations and examples)

See also

External Resources



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