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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Patrice Carbonneau

Milledge, D.G., Gurjar, S.K., Bunce, J.T., Tare, V., Sinha, R. & Carbonneau, P.E. (2018). Population density controls on microbial pollution across the Ganga catchment. Water Research 128: 82-91.

Author(s) from Durham


For millions of people worldwide, sewage-polluted surface waters threaten water security, food security and human health. Yet the extent of the problem and its causes are poorly understood. Given rapid widespread global urbanisation, the impact of urban versus rural populations is particularly important but unknown. Exploiting previously unpublished archival data for the Ganga (Ganges) catchment, we find a strong non-linear relationship between upstream population density and microbial pollution, and predict that these river systems would fail faecal coliform standards for irrigation waters available to 79% of the catchment’s 500 million inhabitants. Overall, this work shows that microbial pollution is conditioned by the continental-scale network structure of rivers, compounded by the location of cities whose growing populations contribute c. 100 times more microbial pollutants per capita than their rural counterparts.