Water Quality, nutrients and the European Union’s Water Framework Directive in a lowland agricultural region: Suffolk, south-east England.

Howden, Nicholas J. K.; Bowes, Michael J.; Humphries, Neil; Neal, Colin. 2009 Water Quality, nutrients and the European Union’s Water Framework Directive in a lowland agricultural region: Suffolk, south-east England. Science of the Total Environment, 407 (8). 2966-2979.

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The water quality of 13 rivers in the lowland, agricultural county of Suffolk is investigated using routine monitoring data for the period 1981 to 2006 collected by the Environment Agency of England and Wales (EA), and its predecessors, with particular emphasis on phosphorus (as total reactive phosphorus, TRP) and total (dissolved and particulate) oxidised nitrogen (TOxN – predominantly nitrate NO3). Major ion and flow data are used to outline fundamental hydrochemical characteristics related to the groundwater provenance of base-flow waters. Relative load contributions from point and diffuse sources are approximated using Load Apportionment Modelling for both TRP and TOxN where concurrent flow and concentration data are available. Analyses indicate a mixture of point and diffuse sources of TRP, with the former being dominant during low flow periods, while for TOxN diffuse sources dominate. Out of 59 sites considered, 53 (90%) were found to have annual average TRP concentrations greater than 0.05 mg P l-1, and 36 (61%) had average concentrations over 0.120 mg P l-1, the upper thresholds for ‘High’ and ‘Good’ ecological status, respectively. Correspondingly, for TOxN, most of the rivers are already within 70% of the 11.3 mg N l-1 threshold, with two rivers (Wang and Ore) being consistently greater than this. It is suggested that the major challenge is to characterise and control point-source TRP inputs which, being predominant during the late spring and summer low-flow period, coincide with the peak of primary biological production, thus presenting the major challenge to achieving ‘good’ ecological status under the Water Framework Directive. Results show that considerable effort is still required to ensure appropriate management and develop tools for decision-support.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water > WA03 Developing strategic data and knowledge at a catchment scale to enable the wiser management of the water environment > WA03.3 Catchment scale modelling and assessment
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: The definitive version of this article is available at
Additional Keywords: Suffolk rivers, nutrients, Water Framework Directive, nitrate, phosphate, Load Apportionment Modelling
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Earth Sciences
Date made live: 02 Apr 2009 10:40 +0 (UTC)

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