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Evidence for the Use of Low-Grade Weirs in Drainage Ditches to Improve Nutrient Reductions from Agriculture

Kröger, Robert, Moore, Matthew T., Farris, Jerry L., Gopalan, Mathangi
Water, air, and soil pollution 2011 v.221 no.1-4 pp. 223
drainage, drainage channels, nitrate nitrogen, nutrient content, nutrients, phosphates, pollution load, runoff, weirs
Typical controlled drainage structures in drainage ditches provide drainage management strategies for isolated temporal periods. Innovative, low-grade weirs are anticipated to provide hydraulic control on an annual basis, as well as be installed at multiple sites within the drainage ditch for improved spatial biogeochemical transformations. This study provides evidence toward the capacity of low-grade weirs for nutrient reductions, when compared to the typical controlled drainage structure of a slotted riser treatment. Three ditches with weirs were compared against three ditches with slotted risers, and two control ditches for hydraulic residence time (HRT) and nutrient reductions. There were no differences in water volume or HRT between weired and riser systems. Nutrient concentrations significantly decreased from inflow to outflow in both controlled drainage strategies, but there were few statistical differences in N and P concentration reductions between controlled drainage treatments. Similarly, there were significant declines in N and P loads, but no statistical differences in median N and P outflow loads between weir (W) and riser (R) ditches for dissolved inorganic phosphate (W, 92%; R, 94%), total inorganic phosphate (W, 86%; R, 88%), nitrate-N (W, 98%; R, 96%), and ammonium (W, 67%; R, 85%) when nutrients were introduced as runoff events. These results indicate the importance of HRT in improving nutrient reductions. Low-grade weirs should operate as important drainage control structures in reducing nutrient loads to downstream receiving systems if the hydraulic residence time of the system is significantly increased with multiple weirs, as a result of ditch length and slope.