The EU Water Framework Directive 2000/ 60 (Integrated River Basin Management for Europe) establishes the importance of preserving water quality through policies applied at watershed level given the strong links existing among ecological, hydrological, and hydrogeological systems. Therefore, monitoring campaigns of river water quality should be planned with multidisciplinary approaches starting from a landscape perspective. In this paper, the effects of the basin hydrology on the river water quality and, in particular, the impacts caused by the runoff production coming from agricultural areas are investigated. The fluvial segments receiving consistent amount of pollutant loads (due to the runoff routing over agricultural areas) are assumed more critical in terms of water quality and thus, they require more accurate controls. Starting from this perspective, to evaluate the runoff productions coming from agricultural areas, we applied a semi-distributed hydrological model that adopts satellite data, pedological and morphological information for the watershed description. Then, the river segments receiving critical amount of runoff loads from the surrounding cultivated areas were identified. Finally, in order to validate the approach, water quality for critical and non critical segment was investigated seasonally, by using river macroinvertebrates as indicators of water quality because of their effectiveness in preserving in time a memory of pollution events. Biomonitoring data showed that river water quality strongly decreases in correspondence of fluvial segments receiving critical amount of runoff coming from agricultural areas. The results highlight the usefulness of such a methodology to plan monitoring campaigns specifically devoted to non-point pollution sources and suggest the possibility to use this approach for water quality management and for planning river restoration policies.

How to cite: Carone, M.T., T. Simoniello, S. Manfreda, G. Caricato, Watershed influence on fluvial ecosystems: a methodology for river water quality managementEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment, 152(1-4), 327-342, (doi: 10.1007/s10661-008-0319-1), 2009. [Link]