Retrospective water quality assessment plays an essential role in identifying trends and causal associations between exposures and risks, thus it can be a guide for water resources management. We have developed empirical relationships between several time-varying social and economic factors of economic development, water quality variables such as nitrate-nitrogen, CODMn, BOD5, and DO, in the Jiulong River Watershed and its main tributary, the West River. Our analyses used alternative statistical methods to reduce the dimensionality of the analysis first and then strengthen the study's causal associations. The statistical methods included: factor analysis (FA), trend analysis, Monte Carlo/bootstrap simulations, robust regressions and a coupled equations model, integrated into a framework that allows an investigation and resolution of the issues that may affect the estimated results. After resolving these, we found that the concentrations of nitrogen compounds increased over time in the West River region, and that fertilizer used in agricultural fruit crops was the main risk with regard to nitrogen pollution. The relationships we developed can identify hazards and explain the impact of sources of different types of pollution, such as urbanization, and agriculture.
Keywords: retrospective assessment, risk, socio-economic, statistics, water pollution