High-frequency water quality monitoring in an urban catchment: hydrochemical dynamics, primary production and implications for the Water Framework Directive

Halliday, Sarah J.; Skeffington, Richard A.; Wade, Andrew J.; Bowes, Michael J. ORCID:; Gozzard, Emma; Newman, Jonathan R.; Loewenthal, Matthew; Palmer-Felgate, Elizabeth J.; Jarvie, Helen P.. 2015 High-frequency water quality monitoring in an urban catchment: hydrochemical dynamics, primary production and implications for the Water Framework Directive. Hydrological Processes, 29 (15). 3388-3407.

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This paper describes the hydrochemistry of a lowland, urbanised river-system, The Cut in England,using in situ sub-daily sampling. The Cut receives effluent discharges from four major sewage treatment works serving around 190,000 people. These discharges consist largely of treated water,originally abstracted from the River Thames and returned via the water supply network,substantially increasing the natural flow. The hourly water quality data were supplemented by weekly manual sampling with laboratory analysis to check the hourly data and measure further determinands. Mean phosphorus and nitrate concentrations were very high, breaching standards set by EU legislation. Though 56% of the catchment area is agricultural, the hydrochemical dynamics were significantly impacted by effluent discharges which accounted for approximately 50% of the annual P catchment input loads and, on average, 59% of river flow at the monitoring point. Diurnal dissolved oxygen data demonstrated high in-stream productivity. From a comparison of high frequency and conventional monitoring data, it is inferred that much of the primary production was dominated by benthic algae, largely diatoms. Despite the high productivity and nutrient concentrations, the river water did not become anoxic and major phytoplankton blooms were not observed. The strong diurnal and annual variation observed showed that assessments of water quality made under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) are sensitive to the time and season of sampling. It is recommended that specific sampling time windows be specified for each determinand, and that WFD targets should be applied in combination to help identify periods of greatest ecological risk.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
Rees (from October 2014)
ISSN: 0885-6087
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: The Cut, sewage treatment works, diurnal dynamics, instream productivity, phosphorus, Water Framework Directive
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 16 Feb 2015 11:56 +0 (UTC)

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