The combination of rapid urbanization, industrialization, population growth, and low environmental awareness poses a major threat to worldwide valuable freshwater resources, which provide important ecosystem services to humans. There is an urgent need to monitor and assess these resources, as this information is indispensable for sustainable decision-making and management. In this context, we analyzed the chemical and ecological water quality of the riverine environment of a fast growing city in Southwest Ethiopia for which we proposed possible remediation options that were evaluated with an empirical model. The chemical and ecological water quality was assessed at 53 sampling locations using the oxygen Prati index and the ETHbios, which is a biotic index based on macroinvertebrates. In addition, a microbiological analysis was performed to estimate the degree of fecal contamination. Finally, we analyzed the relationship between the oxygen content and the organic pollution to simulate the effect of organics removal from waste streams on the chemical water quality. Our results showed that the average values for dissolved oxygen (4.2 mg DO·L−1
) and nutrients (0.9 mg oPO43−
and 12.8 mg TAN·L−1
) exceeded international standards. Moreover, high turbidity levels revealed that land erosion is a severe problem in the region. Along the rivers, a significant increase in oxygen consumption and in nutrient concentrations was observed, indicating organic pollution originating from different diffuse and point sources of pollution. The lack of proper sanitation also led to exceedingly high abundances of fecal coliforms in the surface water (>320 MPN·mL−1
). However, fecal contamination was strongly reduced (>92%) after the polluted river water passed Boye wetland, indicating the purification potential of natural wetlands and the importance of conserving and protecting those ecosystems. The simulation results of the model showed that water quality could be substantially improved if municipal, industrial, and institutional wastewater was efficiently collected and transported to a treatment facility. Waste stabilization ponds and constructed wetlands are highly promising techniques, as they provide a cheap, effective, reliable, and sustainable way to purify wastewater. It is advised that the environmental awareness of the people via sensitization, education, and law enforcement is increased, as this is essential for sustainable development.
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