Abstract The paper describes linear and nonlinear modeling of the wastewater data for the performance evaluation of an up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor based wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Partial least squares regression (PLSR), multivariate polynomial regression (MPR) and artificial neural networks (ANNs) modeling methods were applied to predict the levels of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) in the UASB reactor effluents using four input variables measured weekly in the influent wastewater during the peak (morning and evening) and non-peak (noon) hours over a period of 48 weeks. The performance of the models was assessed through the root mean squared error (RMSE), relative error of prediction in percentage (REP), the bias, the standard error of prediction (SEP), the coefficient of determination ( R 2), the Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient of efficiency ( E f), and the accuracy factor ( A f), computed from the measured and model predicted values of the dependent variables (BOD, COD) in the WWTP effluents. Goodness of the model fit to the data was also evaluated through the relationship between the residuals and the model predicted values of BOD and COD. Although, the model predicted values of BOD and COD by all the three modeling approaches (PLSR, MPR, ANN) were in good agreement with their respective measured values in the WWTP effluents, the nonlinear models (MPR, ANNs) performed relatively better than the linear ones. These models can be used as a tool for the performance evaluation of the WWTPs.