The water quality of the River Enborne, UK: Observations from high-frequency monitoring in a rural, lowland river system

Sarah J. Halliday, Richard A. Skeffington, Michael J. Bowes, Emma Gozzard, Jonathan R. Newman, Matthew Loewenthal, Elizabeth J. Palmer-Felgate, Helen P. Jarvie, Andrew J. Wade

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    50 Citations (Scopus)
    177 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper reports the results of a 2-year study of water quality in the River Enborne, a rural river in lowland England. Concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus species and other chemical determinands were monitored both at high-frequency (hourly), using automated in situ instrumentation, and by manual weekly sampling and laboratory analysis. The catchment land use is largely agricultural, with a population density of 123 persons km-2. The river water is largely derived from calcareous groundwater, and there are high nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations. Agricultural fertiliser is the dominant source of annual loads of both nitrogen and phosphorus. However, the data show that sewage effluent discharges have a disproportionate effect on the river nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics. At least 38% of the catchment population use septic tank systems, but the effects are hard to quantify as only 6% are officially registered, and the characteristics of the others are unknown. Only 4% of the phosphorus input and 9% of the nitrogen input is exported from the catchment by the river, highlighting the importance of catchment process understanding in predicting nutrient concentrations. High-frequency monitoring will be a key to developing this vital process understanding.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)150-180
    Number of pages31
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2014


    • Conductivity
    • Diurnal dynamics
    • Eutrophication
    • High frequency
    • Nitrogen
    • Phosphorus
    • Septic tanks
    • Sewage treatment
    • Turbidity
    • Water chemistry

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Aquatic Science
    • Biochemistry
    • Water Science and Technology
    • Geography, Planning and Development


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