Assessment of surface water quality using a growing hierarchical self-organizing map: a case study of the Songhua River Basin, northeastern China, from 2011 to 2015

  • Mingcen Jiang
  • Yeyao Wang
  • Qi Yang
  • Fansheng Meng
  • Zhipeng Yao
  • Peixuan Cheng


The analysis of a large number of multidimensional surface water monitoring data for extracting potential information plays an important role in water quality management. In this study, growing hierarchical self-organizing map (GHSOM) was applied to a water quality assessment of the Songhua River Basin in China using 22 water quality parameters monitored monthly from 13 monitoring sites from 2011 to 2015 (14,782 observations). The spatial and temporal features and correlation between the water quality parameters were explored, and the major contaminants were identified. The results showed that the downstream of the Second Songhua River had the worst water quality of the Songhua River Basin. The upstream and midstream of Nenjiang River and the Second Songhua River had the best. The major contaminants of the Songhua River were chemical oxygen demand (COD), ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N), total phosphorus (TP), and fecal coliform (FC). In the Songhua River, the water pollution at downstream has been gradually eased in years. However, FC and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) showed growth over time. The component planes showed that three sets of parameters had positive correlations with each other. GHSOM was found to have advantages over self-organizing maps and hierarchical clustering analysis as follows: (1) automatically generating the necessary neurons, (2) intuitively exhibiting the hierarchical inheritance relationship between the original data, and (3) depicting the boundaries of the classification much more clearly. Therefore, the application of GHSOM in water quality assessments, especially with large amounts of monitoring data, enables the extraction of more information and provides strong support for water quality management.


Water quality assessment Growing hierarchical self-organizing map Major contaminant identification Spatial feature Temporal feature Water quality management 



We would like to thank the China National Environmental Monitoring Center for providing the water quality monitoring data.

Funding information

This research was a part of Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment of China entitled “National Water Environment Monitoring Intelligent Management Integrated Platform Construction Technology and Operational Demonstration” (2014ZX07502-002) and was also supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2652016084).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mingcen Jiang
    • 1
  • Yeyao Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qi Yang
    • 1
  • Fansheng Meng
    • 3
  • Zhipeng Yao
    • 2
  • Peixuan Cheng
    • 1
  1. 1.Beijing Key Laboratory of Water Resources & Environmental EngineeringChina University of Geosciences (Beijing)BeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.China National Environmental Monitoring CenterBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk AssessmentChinese Research Academy of Environmental SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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