N Barber, SM Reaney, PA Barker, C Benskin, S Burke, W Cleasby, P Haygarth, JC Jonczyk, GJ Owen, MA Snell, B Surridge, PF Quinn 2016: The Treatment Train approach to reducing non-point source pollution from agriculture; AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts

The Treatment Train – Mitigating agricultural diffuse pollution from source to stream from Sim Reaney on Vimeo.


An experimental approach has been applied to an agricultural catchment in NW England, where non-point pollution adversely affects freshwater ecology. The aim of the work (as part of the River Eden Demonstration Test Catchment project) is to develop techniques to manage agricultural runoff whilst maintaining food production. The approach used is the Treatment Train (TT), which applies multiple connected mitigation options that control nutrient and fine sediment pollution at source, and address polluted runoff pathways at increasing spatial scale. The principal agricultural practices in the study sub-catchment (1.5 km2) are dairy and stock production. Farm yards can act as significant pollution sources by housing large numbers of animals; these areas are addressed initially with infrastructure improvements e.g. clean/dirty water separation and upgraded waste storage. In-stream high resolution monitoring of hydrology and water quality parameters showed high-discharge events to account for the majority of pollutant exports ( 80% total phosphorus; 95% fine sediment), and primary transfer routes to be surface and shallow sub-surface flow pathways, including drains. To manage these pathways and reduce hydrological connectivity, a series of mitigation features were constructed to intercept and temporarily store runoff. Farm tracks, field drains, first order ditches and overland flow pathways were all targeted. The efficacy of the mitigation features has been monitored at event and annual scale, using inflow-outflow sampling and sediment/nutrient accumulation measurements, respectively. Data presented here show varied but positive results in terms of reducing acute and chronic sediment and nutrient losses. An aerial fly-through of the catchment is used to demonstrate how the TT has been applied to a fully-functioning agricultural landscape. The elevated perspective provides a better understanding of the spatial arrangement of mitigation features, and how they can be implemented without impacting on the farm’s primary function. The TT has the potential to yield benefits beyond those associated with water quality. Increasing catchment resilience through the use of landscape interventions can provide multiple benefits by mitigating for floods and droughts and creating ecological habitat.

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