Pathways for delivery of surface water nutrients to receptors

J. Deakin, B. Misstear, J.R. O'Brien, Marie Archbold, Raymond Flynn

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    Diffuse contaminants can make their way into rivers via a number of different pathways, including overland flow, interflow, and shallow and deep groundwater. Identification of the key pathway(s) delivering contaminants to a receptor is important for implementing effective water management strategies. The ‘Pathways Project’, funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, is developing a catchment management tool that will enable practitioners to identify the critical source areas for diffuse contaminants, and the key pathways of interest in assessing contaminant problems on a catchment and sub-catchment scale.
    One of the aims of the project is to quantify the flow and contaminant loadings being delivered to the stream via each of the main pathways. Chemical separation of stream event hydrographs is being used to supplement more traditional physical hydrograph separation methods. Distinct, stable chemical signatures are derived for each of the pathway end members, and the proportion of flow from each during a rainfall event can be determined using a simple mass balance approach.
    Event sampling was carried out in a test catchment underlain by poorly permeable soils and bedrock, which is predominantly used for grazing with a number of one-off rural residential houses. Results show that artificial field drainage, which includes subterranean land drains and collector drains around the perimeters of the 1 to 10 ha fields, plays an important role in the delivery of flow and nutrients to the streams in these types of hydrogeological settings.
    Nitrate infiltrates with recharge and is delivered to the stream primarily via the artificial drains and the shallow groundwater pathway. Longitudinal stream profiles show that the nitrate load input is relatively uniform over the 8 km length of the stream at high flows, suggesting widespread diffuse contaminant input. In contrast, phosphorus is adsorbed in the clay-rich soil and is transported mainly via the overland flow pathway and the artificial drains. Longitudinal stream profiles for phosphorus suggest a pattern of more discrete points of phosphorus inputs, which may be related to point sources of contamination.
    These techniques have application elsewhere within a toolkit of methods for determining the key pathways delivering contaminants to surface water receptors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2012
    EventIAH Annual International Congress - Niagara Falls, Canada
    Duration: 16 Sep 201221 Sep 2012


    ConferenceIAH Annual International Congress
    CityNiagara Falls


    Dive into the research topics of 'Pathways for delivery of surface water nutrients to receptors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this