Environmental Science & Policy, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 26 May 2010
Luis Lassaletta, Héctor García-Gómez, Benjamín S. Gimeno, and José V. Rovira
“The European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD) aims to achieve the “good status” of waters by 2015, through monitoring and control of human impacts on “bodies of surface water” (BSWs), discrete elements for quality diagnosis and management. Headwater streams, however, are frequently neglected as they are not usually recognised as BSW. This poses limitations for the management of river catchments, because anthropogenic impacts on headwaters can constrain the quality of downstream rivers. To illustrate this problem, we compared nitrate levels and land use pressures in a small agricultural catchment with those recorded in the catchment in which it is embedded (Ega), and in the Ebro River Basin (NE Spain) comprising both. Agriculture greatly influenced water nitrate concentration, regardless of the size of the catchments: R2 = 0.91 for headwater catchments (0.1–7.3 km2), and R2 = 0.82 for Ebro tributary catchments (223–3113 km2). Moreover, nitrate concentration in the outlet of a non-BSW small river catchment was similar to that of the greater downstream BSW rivers. These results are of interest since, despite representing 76% of the length of the Ega catchment hydrographical network, only 3.1% of the length of the headwater streams has been identified as BSWs. Human activities affecting headwater streams should therefore be considered if the 2015 objective of the WFD is to be achieved.”
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