Articles | Volume 19, issue 4
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1641–1657, 2015
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1641–1657, 2015

Research article 09 Apr 2015

Research article | 09 Apr 2015

The Catchment Runoff Attenuation Flux Tool, a minimum information requirement nutrient pollution model

R. Adams1, P. F. Quinn1, and M. J. Bowes2 R. Adams et al.
  • 1School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
  • 2Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Maclean Building, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK

Abstract. A model for simulating runoff pathways and water quality fluxes has been developed using the minimum information requirement (MIR) approach. The model, the Catchment Runoff Attenuation Flux Tool (CRAFT), is applicable to mesoscale catchments and focusses primarily on hydrological pathways that mobilise nutrients. Hence CRAFT can be used to investigate the impact of flow pathway management intervention strategies designed to reduce the loads of nutrients into receiving watercourses. The model can help policy makers meet water quality targets and consider methods to obtain "good" ecological status.

A case study of the 414 km2 Frome catchment, Dorset, UK, has been described here as an application of CRAFT in order to highlight the above issues at the mesoscale. The model was primarily calibrated on 10-year records of weekly data to reproduce the observed flows and nutrient (nitrate nitrogen – N; phosphorus – P) concentrations. Data from 2 years with sub-daily monitoring at the same site were also analysed. These data highlighted some additional signals in the nutrient flux, particularly of soluble reactive phosphorus, which were not observable in the weekly data. This analysis has prompted the choice of using a daily time step as the minimum information requirement to simulate the processes observed at the mesoscale, including the impact of uncertainty. A management intervention scenario was also run to demonstrate how the model can support catchment managers investigating how reducing the concentrations of N and P in the various flow pathways. This mesoscale modelling tool can help policy makers consider a range of strategies to meet the European Union (EU) water quality targets for this type of catchment.

Short summary
Nutrient pollution models need to have an appropriate level of complexity and must be applicable at the mesoscale. Here we show the minimum information requirement approach to building models that are used by policy makers to look at the broad-scale effects of their decisions. CRAFT (Catchment Runoff Attenuation Flux Tool) relies on the representation of hydrological flow pathways and how they can be altered. A case study is shown to demonstrate what can be simulated at the mesoscale.