Abstract In the Canadian prairies, eutrophication is a widespread issue, with agriculture representing a major anthropogenic nutrient source in many watersheds. However, efforts to mitigate agricultural nutrient export are challenged by the lack of coordinated monitoring programs and the unique hydrological characteristics of the prairies, notably, the dominance of snowmelt in both water flows and nutrient loads, variable runoff, variable contributing area and the issues of understanding how scale affects nutrient concentrations and prevalence of dissolved nutrient transport (over total nutrients). Efforts are being made to integrate these characteristics in process-based water quality models, but the models are often complex and are not yet ready for use by watershed managers for prioritizing implementation of beneficial management practices (BMPs). In this study, a screening and scoping approach based on nutrient export coefficient modeling was used to prioritize BMPs for the 55,700 km2 Qu’Appelle Watershed, Saskatchewan. By integrating land use information, in-stream monitoring data, stakeholder input and nutrient export coefficient modeling, the study assessed potential efficiencies of six BMPs involving fertilizer, manure, grazing, crop and wetland management in nutrient load reductions for nine tributaries of the watershed. Uncertainty around the effectiveness of the BMPs was assessed. Field-level export coefficients were adjusted with nutrient delivery ratios for estimating watershed-level exports. Of the BMPs examined, in general, wetland restoration had the greatest potential to reduce both nitrogen and phosphorus loads in most tributaries, followed by fertilizer management. The importance of wetland restoration was supported by positive, significant, linear correlations between nutrient delivery ratios and drainage intensity in the tributaries (nitrogen: R 2 = 0.67; phosphorus: R 2 = 0.82). Notably, the relative ranking of BMP efficiencies varied with tributaries, as a result of differing landscape characteristics, land uses and nutrient inputs. In conclusion, the approach developed here acknowledges uncertainty, but provides a means to guide management decisions within the context of an adaptive management approach, where BMP implementation is partnered with monitoring and assessment to revise ongoing plans and ensures selected practices are meeting goals for nutrient abatement.
Abstract Nutrient export from agricultural areas is among the main contributors to water pollution in various watersheds. Agricultural Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) are commonly used to reduce excessive nutrient runoff and improve water quality. The successful uptake of BMPs not only depends on their effectiveness but also on their costs of implementation. This study conducts a set of cost-effectiveness analyses to help stakeholders identify their preferred combinations of BMPs in the Qu’Appelle River Basin, a typical watershed in the Canadian Prairies. The considered BMPs are related to cattle and cropping farms and are initially selected by agricultural producers in this region. The analyses use a water quality model to estimate the impact of implementing BMPs on nutrient export, and the cost estimation model to approximate the cost of implementing BMPs at tributary and watershed scales. Our results show that BMPs' effectiveness, total costs of implementation and costs per kilogram of nutrient abatement vary between tributaries. However, wetland conservation is among the optimal practices to improve water quality across the watershed. It is also found that the rates of BMP adoption by stakeholders can influence the effectiveness of practices in a large watershed scale, which highlights the importance of stakeholder engagement in water quality management. This type of analyses can help stakeholders choose single or a combination of BMPs according to their available budget and acceptable levels of reduction in nutrients.
Water quality is increasingly at risk due to nutrient pollution entering river systems from cities, industrial zones and agricultural areas. Agricultural activities are typically the largest non-point source of water pollution. The dynamics of agricultural impacts on water quality are complex and stem from the decisions and activities of multiple stakeholders, often with diverse business plans, values, and attitudes towards practices that can improve water quality. This study proposes a framework to understand and incorporate stakeholders' viewpoints into water quality modeling and management. The framework was applied to the Qu'Appelle River Basin, Saskatchewan, Canada. Q-methodology was used to understand viewpoints of stakeholders, namely agricultural producers (annual croppers, cattle producers, mixed farmers) and cottage owners, regarding a range of agricultural Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) that can improve water quality, and to identify their preferred BMPs. A System Dynamics (SD) approach was employed to develop a transparent and user-friendly water quality model, SD-Qu'Appelle, to simulate nutrient loads in the region before and after implementation of stakeholder identified BMPs. The SD-Qu'Appelle was used in real-time engagement of stakeholders in model simulations to demonstrate and explore the potential effects of different BMPs in mitigating water pollution. Stakeholder perspectives were explored to understand the functionality and value of the SD-Qu'Appelle, preferred policies and potential barriers to BMP implementation on their land. Results show that although there are differences between viewpoints of stakeholders, they identified wetland restoration/retention, flow and erosion control, and relocation of corrals near creeks to sites more distant from waterways as the most effective BMPs for improving water quality. Economics was identified as a primary factor that causes agricultural producers to either accept or refuse the implementation of BMPs. Agricultural producers believe that incentives rather than regulations are the best policies for increasing the adoption of BMPs. Overall, stakeholders indicated the SD-Qu'Appelle had considerable value for water quality management and provided a set of recommendations to improve the model.