Farm ponds cut agricultural water pollution

Jun 01, 2012

The reintroduction of farm ponds could significantly reduce agricultural pollution in our streams and rivers, according to new research.

At one time, every would have had a pond, but has meant that many of them have been lost to make way for more farmland.

Working with farmers in Leicestershire and Cumbria, scientists from the University of Reading and Lancaster University have created ten new field wetlands in areas of unproductive farmland such as field corners and buffer strips. The field wetlands - single or paired ponds of varying designs and sizes - are being monitored to measure how much runoff, and nutrients they can trap.

Diffuse pollution from scattered sources on farms and fields, transported by runoff through the of drains, ditches and streams running through our countryside, poses a significant threat to water quality. Each year, over two million tonnes of topsoil are washed from farmers' fields as sediment, and nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates are also lost from , polluting clean water and damaging wildlife habitats.

Researchers have found evidence that field wetlands offer a simple, cost-effective strategy for environmental protection. Their work, carried out over the last four years, shows that the ponds can intercept runoff and prevent sediment and nutrients reaching watercourses:

Results from the first stage of the project show:

Up to 40 tonnes of sediment (the equivalent of about four London buses) was trapped in one year at the project's Whinton Hill site in Cumbria
The farm ponds also act as traps to store carbon
Nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations in runoff waters were also reduced through the ponds, improving water quality at the field wetland outlets
Dr Alison Bailey, from the University of Reading's , said: "These early results suggest that the traditional farm pond is useful not only for storing water for agricultural purposes, but is hugely beneficial to wildlife and could be used prevent rivers and lakes becoming polluted downstream.

"We're now looking to see how ponds and field wetland areas can be made most effective and seeing what other benefits they can bring to farmers and the environment."

Mike and Ruth Tuer of Crake Trees Manor, Crosby Ravensworth, Cumbria run one of the farms included in the project. They have already overseen a number of environmental initiatives on their 175-acre beef, sheep and arable farm, including voluntary woodland planting, wildlife areas, hedgerow protection and the introduction of field margins, and now the farm has three wetlands.

Mike said: "We've always had an environmental focus on our farm. I'm a great believer that if you pollute you should clean up. We were amazed at the amount of sediment that became trapped in the ponds which can be spread back onto the land and does not end up elsewhere."

The project, called MOPS2, began in 2008 and will run until 2013.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Report: Net increase in U.S. wetlands

Mar 31, 2006

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said for the first time since 1954, there is a net increase in U.S. wetlands.

Compost filter socks improve runoff from croplands

Jun 21, 2010

Water runoff from cropped farm fields can contain large amounts of eroded soil as well as some of the fertilizer and herbicide. Expanding on existing conservation practices, a team of scientists has tested whether compost ...

Cropland diversity reduces nitrogen pollution

Feb 11, 2009

LSU researchers have identified a link between the diversity of crops grown in farmlands and the pollution they create in lakes and rivers. In a Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment e-View paper, these ecologists show t ...

The new wildlife refuge -- Golf courses?

Jul 11, 2007

Golf courses are known as centers for human recreation, but if managed properly, they also could be important wildlife sanctuaries, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has found.

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...