As part of an intensive water-quality assessment of the Chattahoochee River, repetitive water-quality measurements were made at 12 sites along a 69-kilometer reach of the river downstream of Atlanta, Georgia. Concentrations of seven constituents (temperature, dissolved oxygen, ultimate carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), organic nitrogen, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate) were obtained during two periods of 36 hours, one starting on August 30, 1976, and the other starting on May 31, 1977. The study reach contains one large and several small sewage outfalls and receives the cooling water from two large powerplants.
An unsteady water-quality model of the Lagrangian type was calibrated using the 1977 data and verified using the 1976 data. The model provided a good means of interpreting these data even though both the flow and the pollution loading rates were highly unsteady. A kinetic model of the cascade type accurately described the physical and biochemical processes occurring in the river. All rate coefficients, except reaeration coefficients and those describing the resuspension of BOD, were fitted to the 1977 data and verified using the 1976 data.
The study showed that, at steady low flow, about 38 percent of the BOD settled without exerting an oxygen demand. At high flow, this settled BOD was resuspended and exerted an immediate oxygen demand. About 70 percent of the ammonia extracted from the water column was converted to nitrite, but the fate of the remaining 30 percent is unknown. Photosynthetic production was not an important factor in the oxygen balance during either run.