Predicting faecal indicator fluxes using digital land use data in the UK's sentinel Water Framework Directive catchment: the Ribble study

Carl M. Stapleton, John Crowther, David Kay, Mark D. Wyer

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68 Citations (SciVal)


The Ribble drainage basin is the single UK sentinel study area chosen for examining the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD 20/60/EC). The study which has generated the data for this paper was initiated to quantify ‘catchment-derived’ fluxes of faecal indicators originating from both point and diffuse sources to inform the competent authorities on the potential for, and prioritization of, further options for reducing the faecal indicator loadings to this crucial coastal environment. It represents the first UK drainage basin-scale ‘profile’ of faecal indicator sources as recommended by WHO [1999. Health Based Monitoring of Recreational Waters: The Feasibility of a New Approach; the “Annapolis Protocol”. World Health Organisation Geneva, Switzerland; 2003. Guidelines for Safe Recreational-Water Environments Volume 1: Coastal and Fresh-Waters. World Health Organisation Geneva, Switzerland] and incorporated into current drafts of the revised Bathing Water Directive [Anon, 2004. Council of the European Communities Amended proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the management of bathing water quality. Brussels 23rd June]. This paper focuses on the relationships between land use and faecal indicator organism concentrations in surface waters within this very large drainage basin (1583 km2) containing some extensive urban areas. A geographical information system comprising readily available digital elevation, remotely sensed land cover and digital map data was used to generate the land use variables for subcatchments draining to 41 locations across the study area. Presumptive concentrations of coliforms, Escherichia coli and enterococci (colony forming unit (cfu) 100 ml−1) were measured at each location on at least 20 occasions over a 44-day period within the 2002 bathing season. The sampling programme targeted hydrograph events. Hydrometric records were used to allocate results as either base flow or high flow. At each site, geometric mean faecal indicator organism concentrations were significantly elevated at high flow compared to base flow. Stepwise regression modelling produced statistically significant models predicting geometric mean base and high-flow faecal indicator organism concentrations from land use variables (r2: 49.5–68.1%). The dominant predictor variable in each case was the proportion of built-up land in subcatchments, suggesting that this land use type, with associated sewage-related inputs, is a critical source of faecal indicator organisms in this drainage basin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3967-3981
Number of pages15
JournalWater Research
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


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