- The amount of oxygen dissolved in a stream, river or lake is an indication of the degree of health of the stream and its ability to support a balanced aquatic ecosystem. The oxygen comes from the atmosphere by solution and from photosynthesis of water plants. The maximum amount of oxygen that can be held in solution in a stream is termed the saturation concentration and, as it is a function of temperature, the greater the temperature, the less the saturation amount. The discharge of an organic waste to a stream imposes an oxygen demand on the stream. If there is an excessive amount of organic matter, the oxidation of waste by microorganisms will consume oxygen more rapidly than it can be replenished. When this happens, the dissolved oxygen is depleted and results in the death of the higher forms of life.