Twelve replicate 150-l laboratory microcosms were developed using whole water samples and natural benthic communities from Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island (USA). The microcosms were scaled to the bay in terms of salinity, temperature, light input, volume pelagic community to area of benthic community, density of macrofauna, turbulent mixing, and flushing time. The microcosms were self maintaining during a six month study period with over 35 species of phytoplankton and 30 species of macro-invertebrates. Some 25 species of macroplankton entered the microcosms and successfully colonized the benthic communities. Zooplankton were present in all life stages. After an initial study of replication among the 12 tanks, the microcosms were perturbed with 3 levels of treated urban sewage for a three month period. Three microcosms were maintained at each level with 3 tanks remaining as controls. At the end of 3 months, the sewage input was terminated and the response of the systems was followed for an additional 2 months. Both time series data and multivariate statistical analysis of over 10 different parameters indicated that the replication of the microcosms was adequate to show the effects of experimental treatments.