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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-391
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-391
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  07 Sep 2020

07 Sep 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Hydraulic Shortcuts Increase the Connectivity of Arable Land Areas to Surface Waters

Urs Schönenberger and Christian Stamm Urs Schönenberger and Christian Stamm
  • Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland

Abstract. Surface runoff represents a major pathway for pesticide transport from agricultural areas to surface waters. The influence of man-made structures (e.g. roads, hedges, ditches) on surface runoff connectivity has been shown in various studies. In Switzerland, so-called hydraulic shortcuts (e.g. inlets and maintenance manholes of road or field storm drainage systems) have been shown to influence surface runoff connectivity and related pesticide transport. Their occurrence, and their influence on surface runoff and pesticide connectivity have however not been studied systematically.

To address that deficit, we randomly selected 20 study areas (average size = 3.5 km2) throughout the Swiss plateau, representing arable cropping systems. We assessed shortcut occurrence in these study areas using three mapping methods: field mapping, drainage plans, and high-resolution aerial images. Surface runoff connectivity in the study areas was analysed using a 2 × 2 m digital elevation model and a multiple-flow algorithm. Parameter uncertainty affecting this analysis was addressed by a Monte Carlo simulation. With our approach, agricultural areas were divided into areas that are either directly connected to surface waters, indirectly (i.e. via hydraulic shortcuts), or not connected at all. Finally, the results of this connectivity analysis were scaled up to the national level using a regression model based on topographic descriptors.

Inlets of the road storm drainage system were identified as the main shortcuts. On average, we found 0.84 inlets and a total of 2.0 manholes per hectare of agricultural land. In the study catchments between 43 and 74 % of the agricultural area is connected to surface waters via hydraulic shortcuts. On the national level, this fraction is similar (54 %).

These numbers suggest that transport through hydraulic shortcuts is an important pesticide flow path in a landscape where many engineered structures exist to drain excess water from fields and roads. However, this transport process is currently not considered in Swiss pesticide legislation and authorisation. Therefore, current regulations may fall short to address the full extent of the pesticide problem. Overall, the findings highlight the relevance of better understanding the connectivity between fields and receiving waters and the underlying factors and physical structures in the landscape.

Urs Schönenberger and Christian Stamm

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Urs Schönenberger and Christian Stamm

Urs Schönenberger and Christian Stamm

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Short summary
Pesticides are a major pollutant of surface waters. In this study, we assessed how so-called hydraulic shortcuts (e.g. inlets and maintenance manholes of road or field storm drainage systems) influence surface runoff and pesticide transport to Swiss surface waters. The study suggests that transport via hydraulic shortcuts is a major pesticide transport pathway and and that current regulations fall short to address this pathway.
Pesticides are a major pollutant of surface waters. In this study, we assessed how so-called...
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