Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)

Chemical symbol/abbreviations:


Form commonly found in stormwater:

Residual food and beverage waste from cans/bottles, antifreeze, emulsified oils.

Solubility in water:

Most forms of COD are water soluble

Related constituents:

Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) – a slightly more refined measure of water quality constituents than COD. BOD measures the amount of organic components that can be biologically degraded in water.  COD and BOD are measured in mg oxygen/L of water.  COD is always equal to or greater BOD.  The ratio of BOD to COD is the percent of the organic materials in water that can be degraded by natural micro-organisms in the environment.

Dissolved oxygen (DO) – a measure of oxygen dissolved in water.

Adverse human impacts:

High levels of COD in water often correlate with threats to human health including toxic algae blooms bacteria from organic wastes and seafood contamination.[ii]

Adverse impacts on the environment:

High COD levels decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen available for aquatic organisms.  Low (generally under 3 mg/L) dissolved oxygen, or “hypoxia,” causes reduced cell functioning, disrupts circulatory fluid balance in aquatic species and can result in death of individual organisms.[iii] as well as large “dead zones”.[iv]  Hypoxic water can also release pollutants stored in sediment.[v]

Stormwater Treatment to Remove COD and BOD


Chemical oxygen demand (COD) is often used to measure organic matter in wastewater, treated effluent, and receiving waters. Although COD measures more than organic constituents, the organic fraction usually predominates and is the constituent of interest.[vii] Chemical oxygen demand was developed as an alternative to the more lengthy BOD analysis.

Sources of COD in stormwater are varied. However, soluble organic compounds are most likely to contribute to escalated COD concentrations. Residual food waste from bottles and cans, antifreeze, emulsified oils are all high in COD and are common sources of COD for industrial stormwater. A typical COD concentration for soda and beer is about 100,000 mg/L.

U.S. EPA recommended water quality criteria:

None. Dissolved oxygen water quality criteria depend upon natural stream temperature and dissolved oxygen level.[i]



[i] U.S. EPA, National Recommended Water Quality Criteria, (last visited July 7, 2010).

[ii] See National Science & Tech. Council, An Assessment of Coastal Hypoxia and Eutrophication in U.S. Waters, 2 (2003) available at

[iii] Ambient Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria for Dissolved Oxygen (Saltwater): Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, 65 Fed. Reg. 71317, 71318 (Nov. 30, 2000).

[iv] Ecological Society of America, Hypoxia (last visited Aug. 11, 2010).

[v] Ecological Society of America, supra.

[vi] Standard Methods, 5-14(Andrew Eaton, et al. eds., 21st ed. 2005).

Learn About Aquip
The StormwateRx Aquip® industrial filtration system uses an innovative enhanced sand filtration process to effectively remove soluble and insoluble aluminum and other metals as well as oils, suspended solids, organics and nutrients from industrial stormwater runoff.

Learn About Purus
The Purus™ Stormwater Polishing System (previously known as the AquiPlus) provides the most advanced level of stormwater treatment, and is designed for challenging stormwater conditions or targeted pollutant removal.

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