Major changes in the water quality and basic features of phytoplankton assemblages in a series (cascade) of 7 reservoirs int he middle Tiete river, south-east Brazil were investigated in February 1998 (rainy season). The biologically non-affected variables change rapidly in the upstream reservoirs and then remain constant while biologically affected ones showed a prolonged response that can be explained only if considering the cascade as an entire system. The changes in the first reservoir in the system accord to the predictions of the serial discontinuity concept (SDC): the river continuum (RCC) is basically affected. However, changes on the downstream reservoirs become continuous again and show that the same processes remain operative throughout the entire river continuum. Therefore, a cascading reservoir continuum concept (CRCC) can be proposed for handling the ecological processes at a system level. A comparison of the present data with those recorded previously for some of the reservoirs show a fast growing eutrophication of the upper reservoirs in the cascade. On the basis of the CRCC and the present ecological status and water quality of the Tiete cascade a progressive downstream eutrophication can be forecasted thus calling attention for urgent need of restoration measures at the headwaters.