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The paper aims at a scientifically based synthesis of water quality genesis and pollution problems arising from human interventions in the landscape, physical as well as chemical.
First, water quality genesis is explained in terms of sources, water pathways and some time scales involved. It goes on to look closer at chemical reactions along water pathways down a landscape catena, using the simple perception of a stream tube.
The river quality outcome is explained in terms of a mix of water fractions with different hydrochemical signatures. Water quality is finally looked at in a 4000-year perspective, explaining some regional similarities and differences in the past.
In looking towards the future, a potential further intensification and expansion in scale is seen as probable in response to driving forces at work, poor mitigation capabilities and the long response times involved.