Charting a perfect storm of water quality pressures

The agri-food economy can be a significant driver of water quality pressures but the role of hydro-meteorological patterns in a changing climate also requires consideration.

For this purpose, an assessment was made of a ten-year synchronous high temporal resolution water quality and hydro-meteorological dataset in Irish agricultural catchments. Changes occurring to rainfall intensity and soil temperature patterns were found to be important drivers of nutrient mobility in soils. There were links between the intensity of the North Atlantic Oscillation over the decade and large shifts in baseline nutrient concentrations in catchments.

The data also revealed extreme weather impacts to pollution patterns including short periods of rain induced nutrient flux, that exceeded average annual mass loads in these catchments, and drought influences on point source pollution.

These influences need consideration, and may require different mitigation strategies, as links between water quality land use pressure and water quality state in regulatory reviews.

In a decade of both increased land use source and hydro-meteorological transport pressures, water quality natural capital in Ireland has faced a perfect storm. Such conditions are difficult to model and only revealed in high temporal resolution datasets.

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