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Identifying flow pathways for phosphorus transport using observed event forensics and the CRAFT (Catchment runoff attenuation flux tool)

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Russell Adams, Dr Paul Quinn, Nicholas Barber, Dr Sean Burke



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 by the authors.Identifying key flow pathways is critical in order to understand the transport of Phosphorus (P) from agricultural headwater catchments. High frequency/resolution datasets from two such catchments in Northwest England enabled individual events to be examined to identify the flow (Q) and Total P (TP) and Total Reactive P (TRP) dynamics (forensics). Detailed analysis of multiple flow and water quality parameters is referred to here as the event forensics. Are there more flow pathways than just surface runoff (dominated by overland flow) and baseflow (mainly groundwater) contributing at the outlet of these catchments? If so, hydrograph separation alone will not be sufficient. This forensic analysis gives a classification of four storm event response types. Three classes are based on the balance of old and new water giving enrichment and dilution of TRP pattern in the subsurface flow. A fourth type was observed where a plume of nutrient is lost to the channel when there is no observed flow. Modelling is also essential when used in combination with the event forensics as this additional tool can identify distinct flow pathways in a robust form. A case study will apply the Catchment Runoff Attenuation Flux Tool (CRAFT) to two contrasting small headwater catchments in Northwest England, which formed part of the Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) Programme. The model will use data collected during a series of events observed in the two catchments between the period 2012 and 2014. It has the ability to simulate fast near surface (that can represent flow in the upper soil horizons and field drains) and event subsurface soil flow, plus slower groundwater discharge. The model can capture P enrichment, dilution and the role that displacement of "old" P rich water has during events by mixing these flows. CRAFT captures the dominant flow and P fluxes as seen in the forensic analysis and can create outputs including smart export coefficients (based on flow pathways) that can be conveyed to policy makers to better underpin decision making.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Adams R, Quinn P, Barber N, Burke S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water

Year: 2020

Volume: 12

Issue: 4

Print publication date: 01/04/2020

Online publication date: 10/04/2020

Acceptance date: 07/04/2020

Date deposited: 29/05/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2073-4441

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/W12041081


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