Diffuse pollution loads are crucial information for water resource management, and yet field data are often scarce, implying questionable accuracy in load estimates made from low-frequency water quality monitoring. This paper aimed to characterize diffuse pollution in a stream of a mixed-land-cover watershed with a significant portion of urbanized areas through intensive monitoring and to perform a comparative analysis between the loads estimated by pollutant rating curves obtained by regression and the estimates using monthly water quality data, which is the method currently used. Continuous rainfall and flow monitoring was conducted between 2019 and 2021, and samples were collected during flood events and the dry period for water quality analysis. Flood events were found to induce an increase in suspended solids (TSS) and COD concentrations, while inorganic nitrogen (Inorg-N) concentrations were higher in the dry season. Flood characteristics showed a positive correlation with solids and COD event mean concentrations (EMCs) and negative with Inorg-N EMCs, while rainfall characteristics, such as antecedent dry days and intensity, correlate positively with all these pollutants. The rating curves performed well for total load estimation in low discharge events (R2
and NSE > 0.8), except for total phosphorus (TP) loads. Estimated annual unit loads found for the watershed were 2 ton TSS/ha.year, 300 kg COD/ha.year, 5 kg Inorg-N/ha.year, and 0.5 kg TP/ha.year, showing high pollution generated in the watershed. Finally, a comparison with estimates based on monthly monitoring data indicated that this method is sufficient for accurate nutrient loads, but not for TSS and COD loads, which require continuous monitoring to improve the accuracy of estimation.
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