Temporal hydrochemical dynamics of the River Wensum, UK: Observations from long-term high-resolution monitoring (2011–2018)

Richard J. Cooper, Kevin M. Hiscock, Andrew A. Lovett, Stephen J. Dugdale, Gisela Sünnenberg, Emilie Vrain

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In 2010, the UK government established the Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC) initiative to evaluate the extent to which on-farm mitigation measures can cost-effectively reduce the impacts of agricultural water pollution on river ecology whilst maintaining food production capacity. A central component of the DTC platform was the establishment of a comprehensive network of automated, web-based sensor technologies to generate high-temporal resolution (30 min) empirical datasets of surface water, groundwater and meteorological parameters over a long period (2011–2018). Utilising 8.9 million water quality measurements generated for the River Wensum, this paper demonstrates how long-term, high-resolution monitoring of hydrochemistry can improve our understanding of the complex temporal dynamics of riverine processes from 30 min to annual timescales. This paper explores the impact of groundwater-surface water interactions on instream pollutant concentrations (principally nitrogen, phosphorus and turbidity) and reveals how varying hydrochemical associations under contrasting flow regimes can elicit important information on the dominant pollution pathways. Furthermore, this paper examines the relationships between agricultural pollutants and precipitation events of varying magnitude, whilst demonstrating how high-resolution data can be utilised to develop conceptual models of hydrochemical processes for contrasting winter and summer seasons. Finally, this paper considers how high-resolution hydrochemical data can be used to increase land manager awareness of environmentally damaging farming operations and encourage the adoption of more water sensitive land management practices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number138253
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date26 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Demonstration Test Catchment
  • High-frequency
  • Nitrate
  • Phosphorus
  • Telemetry
  • Water quality

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