Characterising phosphorus transfers in rural catchments using a continuous bank-side analyser
Abstract. A six-month series of high-resolution synchronous stream discharge and total phosphorus (TP) concentration data is presented from a 5 km2 agricultural catchment in the Lough Neagh basin, Northern Ireland. The data are hourly averages of 10-minute measurements using a new bankside, automatic, continuous monitoring technology. Three TP transfer "event-types" occur in this catchment: (1) chronic, storm independent transfers; (2) acute, storm dependent transfers; (3) acute, storm independent transfers. Event-type 2 transferred over 90% of the total 279 kg TP load in 39% of the total period; it corresponded to diffuse transfers from agricultural soils. Event-types 1 and 3, however, maintained the river in a highly eutrophic state between storm events and were characteristic of point source pollution, despite there being no major industrial or municipal point sources. Managing P transfers at the catchment scale requires a robust monitoring technology to differentiate between dynamic, multiple sources and associated event types and so enable a reliable assessment of the performance of mitigation measures, monitored at catchment outlets. The synchronous and continuous TP and discharge data series generated in this study demonstrate how this is possible.