The scale problem in tackling diffuse water pollution from agriculture: insights from the Avon Demonstration Test Catchment programme in England

Matilda Biddulph, A L Collins, Ian D L Foster, N Holmes

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mitigation of diffuse water pollution from agriculture is of concern in the United Kingdom, so that freshwater quality can be improved in line with environmental objectives. Targeted on‐farm mitigation is necessary for controlling sources of pollution to rivers; a positive impact must also be delivered at the subcatchment and catchment scales before good ecological status can be achieved. A farm on the River Sem in the Hampshire Avon Demonstration Test Catchment was selected for monitoring due to its degraded farmyard, track, and drainage ditch, which was targeted by the Demonstration Test Catchment programme for improvement using a treatment train of interventions. The river was monitored before and after, upstream and downstream, of the potential sources of pollution and subsequent mitigation, both locally at farm scale, and downstream at the subcatchment scale. Sediment was obtained from the riverbed using a conventional disturbance technique, and source samples were collected from across the subcatchment. Samples were analysed for geochemistry, mineral magnetism, and environmental radionuclide activity using the <63‐μm fraction, before sediment source fingerprinting was conducted to apportion sources. Source tracing revealed that, although the degraded farm track was experiencing channelized flow and erosion in the pre‐mitigation period, it was not a major sediment source even at farm scale. Repeat source apportionment during the pre‐ and post‐mitigation periods showed that the targeted treatment train did not result in statistically significant decreases in predicted contributions from the farm track sources at either scale. Sediment sources must be determined at a range of spatial scales to support effective mitigation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberDOI: 10.1002/rra.3222
Pages (from-to)1527-1538
Number of pages11
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Volume33
Issue number10
Early online date9 Oct 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • connectivity
  • diffuse water pollution
  • mitigation
  • sediment fingerprinting
  • water quality

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