Managing diffuse pollution from agriculture in the Ingbirchworth catchment, Yorkshire

Polluted water entering a pipe

Project background

A large body of research exists focusing on the pathways and mechanisms of diffuse nutrient pollution from agricultural activity. A series of recommendations has been developed relating to the timing and rate of nutrient application to agricultural land, and the minimisation of nutrient export via runoff. However, the effectiveness of these measures remains largely untested, particularly at the field and small-catchment scale. It is also at these scales that the challenges associated with the uptake of best practice are found. Increased uptake of such recommendations would be helped by demonstration of their effectiveness.

This project, by postdoctoral researcher Ben Surridge, aimed to implement and test the effectiveness of best management practices designed to minimise diffuse nutrient pollution from agriculture. Nutrient fluxes were monitored before, during and after the implementation of best practice to evaluate how effectively the measures reduced nutrient delivery to surface waters and groundwater.

Key findings

This project was undertaken in collabration with colleagues from the University of Leeds, Yorkshire Water, Defra, and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group. This project made the study area of Ingbirchworth, a headwater catchment of the River Don, an Associate Catchment Sensitive Farming catchment under Defra's England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative. This pilot catchment was used to develop the stakeholder networks required for catchment-scale implementation of best practice, and to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of nutrient management.


Smith, J.W.N., Surridge, B.W.J., Haxton, T.H., Lerner, D.N., 2009. Pollutant attenuation at the groundwater – surface water interface: A classification scheme and statistical analysis using national-scale nitrate data. Journal of Hydrology. In press.

Surridge, B.W.J., Harrism B., 2007. Science-driven integrated river basin management: a mirage? Interdisciplinary Science Review, 33, 298-312

Surridge, B.W.J., Heathwaite, A.L., Baired, A.J., 2006. The release of phosphorus to porewater and surface water from river riparian sediments. Journal of Environmental Quality 36: 1534-1544.

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