Application of an unsupervised artificial neural network technique to multivariant surface water quality data

Cinar O., Merdun H.

ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH, vol.24, no.1, pp.163-173, 2009 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 24 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11284-008-0495-z
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.163-173
  • Keywords: Kohonen self-organising feature maps, Clustering, k-Means clustering algorithm, Surface water quality, Variable dependencies, TREATMENT-PLANT, IDENTIFICATION, SELECTION
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: No


Surface water contamination from agricultural and urban runoff and wastewater discharges from industrial and municipal activities is of major concern to people worldwide. Classical models can be insufficient to visualise the results because the water quality variables used to describe dynamic pollution sources are complex, multivariable, and nonlinearly related. Artificial intelligence techniques with the ability to analyse multivariant water quality data by means of a sophisticated visualisation capacity can offer an alternative to current models. In this study, the Kohonen self-organising feature maps (SOM) neural network was initially applied to analyse the complex nonlinear relationships among multivariable surface water quality variables using the component planes of the variables to determine the complex behaviour of water quality parameters. The dependencies between water quality variables were extracted and interpreted using the pattern analysis visualised in component planes. For further investigation, the k-means clustering algorithm was used to determine the optimal number of clusters by partitioning the maps and utilising the Davies-Bouldin clustering index, leading to seven groups or clusters corresponding to water quality variables. The results reveal that the concentrations of Na, K, Cl, NH(4)-N, NO(2)-N, o-PO(4), component planes of organic matter (pV), and dissolved oxygen (DO) were significantly affected by seasonal changes, and that the SOM technique is an efficient tool with which to analyse and determine the complex behaviour of multidimensional surface water quality data. These results suggest that this technique could also be applied to other environmentally sensitive areas such as air and groundwater pollution.