Projects per year
The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is widely regarded as a seminal piece of environmental legislation. However, two decades since its inception, many European waterbodies are failing to meet its ambitious goal to ensure ‘good’ quantitative and qualitative status. Here, we investigate the impact of the WFD upon the environmentally sensitive yet heavily impacted River Wensum, a lowland arable catchment in eastern England. Compiling a dataset of 10,950 water quality samples collected from 57 sites across the catchment at approximately monthly intervals during 2000–2022, we assess the spatio-temporal dynamics of 12 priority pollutants, identify the major drivers of water quality change, and evaluate current and future compliance with WFD goals. Our analysis reveals improvements in wastewater treatment initiated significant declines (11–50 %) in the concentration of key sewage pollution indicators (phosphorus, ammonium, biological oxygen demand (BOD)) during the early 2000s. Conversely, agricultural pollution indicators (nitrogen, suspended solids, pesticides) displayed either limited change or a deterioration in water quality, with oxidised nitrogen concentrations in particular having increased 23 % during 2015–2022. Concentration spikes of organic chemical contaminants in recent years (propyzamide, tetrachloroethylene) raise concerns about increased riverine pollution from hazardous substances. Similarly, changes in winter (+13 %) and summer (−7 %) discharge over the past two decades have increased the risk of diffuse pollution mobilisation and reduced the dilution of point source pollutants, respectively. By 2022, ‘good’ or ‘high’ water quality status for organic matter pollution indicators (dissolved oxygen, BOD, ammonium) was achieved for >98 % of samples, however WFD compliance fell to just 46 % for phosphorus and 1.8 % for nitrogen. Projections to the end of the third River Basin Management Plan cycle (2027) reveal that whilst phosphorus compliance is likely to improve, nitrogen compliance failure will persist due to the existence of catchment legacy stores and climate change induced impacts on nitrogen mobilisation.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Science of the Total Environment|
|Early online date||26 Jan 2023|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 26 Jan 2023|
- Water quality
- EU Water Framework Directive
- 1 Finished
Demonstration Test Catchment Network: Knowledge Dissemination Project
Lovett, A., Cooper, R., Hiscock, K. & Vrain, E.
Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
16/09/19 → 31/03/20
- 3 Article
Evaluating the impacts of contrasting sewage treatment methods on nutrient dynamics across the River Wensum catchment, UKCooper, R. J., Warren, R. J., Clarke, S. J. & Hiscock, K. M., 15 Jan 2022, In: Science of the Total Environment. 804, 150146.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile2 Downloads (Pure)
Temporal hydrochemical dynamics of the River Wensum, UK: Observations from long-term high-resolution monitoring (2011–2018)Cooper, R. J., Hiscock, K. M., Lovett, A. A., Dugdale, S. J., Sünnenberg, G. & Vrain, E., 1 Jul 2020, In: Science of the Total Environment. 724, 138253.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile11 Citations (Scopus)3 Downloads (Pure)
Riverbed sediments buffer phosphorus concentrations downstream of sewage treatment works across the River Wensum catchment, UKRoberts, E. J. & Cooper, R. J., May 2018, In: Journal of Soils and Sediments. 18, 5, p. 2107–2116
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile15 Citations (Scopus)17 Downloads (Pure)
Water quality data from the River Wensum, UK, 2010-2016
Cooper, R. (Creator) & Hiscock, K. (Creator), Environmental Information Data Centre, 26 Mar 2021