Distribution and assessment of the environmental risk of heavy metals in Aguada Blanca reservoir, Peru

  • Alfonso Torres Espirilla Academic Department of Biology. Faculty of Biological Sciences. Universidad Nacional de San Agustín de Arequipa, Daniel Alcides Carrión, s/n, 04001, Arequipa, Peru.
  • Trinidad Betty Paredes de Gómez Academic Department of Chemistry. Faculty of Natural and Formals Sciences. Universidad Nacional de San Agustín de Arequipa, Avenida Independencia, s/n, 04001, Arequipa, Peru.


Sediments containing high concentrations of heavy metals in reservoirs, lakes and rivers, can resuspend into aquatic environments and negatively impact water quality. The concentrations of 10 elements were studied in surface sediments and water from the Aguada Blanca Reservoir, Peru, an important water source to 1,080,000 people in the arid province of Arequipa. Sediment and water samples were collected from nine points in 2019. The enrichment, accumulation, ecological risk and distribution of metals in sediment were determined, and the information on heavy metals in water was used to assess the quality of the aquatic system. Spatially, heavy metals showed variations throughout the study area, with an increase for most elements near the deepest part of the reservoir. The average concentration of Cd in sediment was 4 times higher than the natural background. In water, As was the only element that exceeded Peruvian regulations (As > 10 μg L-1). The Enrichment Factor (EF) and Geoaccumulation Index (Igeo) of metals in sediment presented the following order: Cd> As> Pb> Zn> Cu> Ni> Cr, with Ni and Cr being the only elements that did not present enrichment. The most considerable Igeo was Cd (1.21 ± 1.45), presenting a classification of moderately to heavily contaminated. The integrated potential ecological risk (RI) of Cd presented high values in 5 points of the reservoir. The information developed will assist in establishing effective control strategies for the quality of the aquatic system.

Keywords: heavy metals, reservoir, sediments, water quality.