Quantitative catchment profiling to apportion faecal indicator organism budgets for the Ribble system, the UK's sentinel drainage basin for Water Framework Directive research

Carl M. Stapleton, Mark D. Wyer, John Crowther, Adrian T. McDonald, David Kay, J. Greaves, A. Wither, John Watkins, Carol Francis, N. Humphrey, M. Bradford

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26 Citations (SciVal)


Under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) 20/60/EC and the US Federal Water Pollution Control Act 2002 management of water quality within river drainage basins has shifted from traditional point-source control to a holistic approach whereby the overall contribution of point and diffuse sources of pollutants has to be considered. Consequently, there is a requirement to undertake source-apportionment studies of pollutant fluxes within catchments. The inclusion of the Bathing Water Directive (BWD), under the list of ‘protected areas’ in the WFD places a requirement to control sources of faecal indicator organisms within catchments in order to achieve the objectives of both the BWD (and its revision - 2006/7/EC) and the WFD. This study was therefore initiated to quantify catchment-derived fluxes of faecal indicator compliance parameters originating from both point and diffuse sources. The Ribble drainage basin is the single UK sentinel WFD research catchment and discharges to the south of the Fylde coast, which includes a number of high profile, historically non-compliant, bathing waters. Faecal indicator concentrations (faecal coliform concentrations are reported herein) were measured at 41 riverine locations, the 15 largest wastewater treatment works (WwTWs) and 15 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) across the Ribble basin over a 44-day period during the 2002 bathing season. The sampling programme included targeting rainfall-induced high flow events and sample results were categorised as either base flow or high flow. At the riverine sites, geometric mean faecal coliform concentrations showed statistically significant elevation at high flow compared to base flow. The resultant faecal coliform flux estimates revealed that over 90% of the total organism load to the Ribble Estuary was discharged by sewage related sources during high flow events. These sewage sources were largely related to the urban areas to the south and east of the Ribble basin, with over half the load associated with the relatively small subcatchment of the River Douglas. The majority of this load was attributed to two WwTWs that discharge through a common outfall close to the tidal limit of this catchment. Budgets adjusted to accommodate the impact of proposed UV disinfection of these effluents showed that the load from these sources would be reduced significantly during base flow conditions. However, during high flow events loads would still remain high due to the operation of storm sewage overflows from stormwater retention tanks. The study identified untreated storm sewage spills from urban infrastructure and WwTW stormwater retention tanks as the dominant component of the high flow flux of faecal indicators to receiving waters of the Fylde coast and the associated bathing waters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-550
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number4
Early online date20 Dec 2007
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2008


  • Water Framework Directive
  • Faecal indicators
  • Coliform
  • Enterococci
  • Diffuse pollution
  • Sewage
  • Drainage basin
  • Source-apportionment
  • Catchment profiling
  • Intermittent discharges


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