The impact of increasing urbanization on the quality of a river system has been investigated by examining the current concentration of trace metals in the Chattahoochee River south of Atlanta, GA, and comparing these to previously published historical sediment data from reservoirs along the river. The lack of historical data for dissolved metal concentrations prior to ???1980 requires an approach using these historic metal data from sediment cores. Core data are combined with current suspended load and dissolved metal data to "backcast" dissolved metal concentrations in the metro-Atlanta portion of the Chattahoochee River. The data suggest that the per capita input of dissolved trace metals have actually decreased since the 1920s, but anthropogenic inputs of metal are still a substantial water quality issue. ?? 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.