To ensure a safe drinking water supply, it is necessary to protect water quality. To classify the suitability of the Orós Reservoir (Northeast of Brazil) water for human consumption, a Water Quality Index (WQI) was enhanced and refined through a Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Samples were collected bi-monthly at seven points (P1 – P7) from July 2009 to July 2011. Samples were analysed for 29 physico-chemical attributes and 4 macroinvertebrate metrics associated with the macrophytes Pistia stratiotes and Eichhornia crassipes. PCA allowed us to reduce the number of attributes from 33 to 12, and 85.32 % of the variance was explained in five dimensions (C1 – C5). Components C1 and C3 were related to water-soluble salts and reflect the weathering process, while C2 was related to surface runoff. C4 was associated with macroinvertebrate diversity, represented by ten pollution-resistant families. C5 was related to the nutrient phosphorus, an indicator of the degree of eutrophication. The mean values for the WQIs ranged from 49 to 65 (rated as fair), indicating that water can be used for human consumption after treatment. The lowest values for the WQI were recorded at the entry points to the reservoir (P3, P1, P5, and P4), while the best WQIs were recorded at the exit points (P6 and P7), highlighting the reservoir’s purification ability. The proposed WQI adequately expressed water quality, and can be used for monitoring surface water quality.