Farmyards, an overlooked source for highly contaminated runoff

Anthony C. Edwards, David Kay, Adrian T. McDonald, Carol Francis, John Watkins, J. R. Wilkinson, Mark D. Wyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Summer sampling of storm runoff generated from areas of roofs and hardstanding situated on four dairy/beef farms has provided novel information regarding its microbiological and chemical quality. All farm hardstandings generated runoff that was contaminated with respect to those pollutants (faecal coliforms, FC, and faecal streptococci, FS, major nutrients, organic carbon) that are ubiquitously associated with faecal matter and urine. The separate analysis of roof runoff indicated that these can contribute significant concentrations of FS, phosphorus (P) and potentially toxic elements such as zinc (Zn), and suggests a level of ‘background’ contamination originating from wash-off of bird droppings and in the case of Zn galvanised surfaces. On average hardstanding runoff showed enhanced concentrations of >4 orders of magnitude for FC and 2–3 for major nutrients and carbon relative to roof runoff. Organic forms of nitrogen (N) and P contributed significantly (averaging >40%) to the total dissolved fraction in both roof and hardstanding runoff. Part of the substantial variability in composition of runoff samples could be attributed to differences between farms as well as the timing of sample collection during individual storms. Where situations allowed, a comparison of water upstream and downstream of the farmyard demonstrated they acted as a source of multiple contaminants not only during hydrologically active storm events but also during dry periods. Contamination pathways included a combination of both point (e.g., septic overflows) and non-point (e.g., seepage from livestock housing) sources. Farmyards situated within intensive livestock farming areas such as SW Scotland, would be expected to have significant local and accumulated downstream impacts on the aquatic environment. Localised impacts would be particularly important for headwaters and low order streams
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-559
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2008


  • Farmyards
  • Hardstanding runoff
  • Roof runoff
  • Livestock
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Faecal indicator organisms


Dive into the research topics of 'Farmyards, an overlooked source for highly contaminated runoff'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this