A watershed modeling framework for phosphorus loading from residential and agricultural sources.

Sinclair, A.C., Jamieson, R.C., Madani, A., Gordon, R.J., Hart, W., and Hebb, D. (2014). "A watershed modeling framework for phosphorus loading from residential and agricultural sources.", Journal of Environmental Quality, 43(4), pp. 1356-1369. doi : 10.2134/jeq2013.09.0368  Access to full text


Phosphorus (P) loading from residential onsite wastewater systems (OWSs) into neighboring surface waters is a poorly understood process in rural watersheds; this can be further challenged when rural residential dwellings are intermixed with agricultural land use. The objectives of this research were (i) to design a P onsite wastewater simulator (POWSIM) to assess P loads from individual or clusters of residential OWSs typically used in Nova Scotia, Canada; and (ii) to simulate OWS P loads in a mixed agricultural watershed (Thomas Brook Watershed [TBW], NS) using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model in conjunction with POWSIM, to predict and compare P loading from agricultural and residential sources. The POWSIM loading tool has three computational components: (i) disposal field selection and treatment media mass calculation, (ii) disposal field P treatment dynamics, and (iii) soil subsurface plume P treatment dynamics. The combination TBW POWSIM and SWAT modeling approach produced a better simulation of baseflow total P (TP) loads in both a predominantly residential subcatchment and one dominated by agriculture than the SWAT model without POWSIM. The residential subcatchment had 48% of its average annual land use TP load (simulated) contributed by OWSs, whereas the agricultural subcatchment had 39%. Watershed-scale sensitivity analyses of POWSIM input parameters for 18- and 50-yr OWS operation periods found the P loading rate into the disposal field, long-term P removal rates in the disposal field and soil systems, soil maximum P sorption capacity, and mass of native soil involved in P treatment to be most sensitive.

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