Can fluorescence spectrometry be used as a surrogate for the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) test in water quality assessment? An example from South West England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Nicholas Hudson
  • D Ward
  • DM Reynolds
  • C Brunsdon
  • Susan Browning


The fluorescence intensities of tryptophan-like, tyrosine-like and humic-like materials were determined using excitation-emission-matrices (EEMs) for a wide range of samples including natural surface waters, sewage and industrial effluents and waters that have experienced known pollution events from the South West of England (n=469). Fluorescence intensities reported in arbitrary fluorescence units (AFU) were correlated with standard five day Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD(5)) values which were used as an indicator of the amount of biodegradable organic material present. Tryptophan-like fluorescence, which has been found to relate to the activity of the biological community, showed the strongest correlation with BOD(5). Fluorescence analysis of the tryptophan-like peak (excitation/emission wavelength region 275/340 nm) is found to provide an accurate indication of the presence, and relative proportions of bioavailable organic material present (natural or anthropogenic). It therefore provides an insight relating to its oxygen depleting potential. Thus fluorescence spectroscopy is recommended as a portable or laboratory tool for the determination of the presence of biodegradable organic matter with intrinsic oxidising potential in natural waters. The novel application of Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR) to the data illustrates that strong local relationships exist between the two parameters and that site specific character may be a strong factor in the strength of the tryptophan-like fluorescence/BOD(5) relationship.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-158
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2008


  • water quality, wastewater, Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR), fluorescence, Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), rivers