The Wetland Book pp 1285-1291 | Cite as

Water Quality Regulation: Overview

  • Jos T. A. VerhoevenEmail author
Reference work entry


Water quality has deteriorated in many parts of the world with intensive agricultural practices. Nutrients in agricultural runoff are carried towards streams, lakes and coastal areas and cause there serious eutrophication problems, with fish kills and loss of biodiversity as consequences. Wetlands in agricultural catchments have a robust potential to improve water quality by removing nutrients from the agricultural runoff. Creation and restoration of wetlands in the landscape have reduced nitrogen and phosphorus loads downstream by particle trapping, adsorption and nitrification/denitrification processes. Such wetlands should be designed in a way that connects them with surface and subsurface runoff flows. These wetlands have been shown to enhance biodiversity at the landscape scale because they provide habitat for plants, aquatic macrofauna and birds. The wetlands could potentially result in emissions of nitrous oxide and methane, but these do not constitute a major environmental risk at the catchment scale. The benefits in terms of water purification and biodiversity enhancement by far outweigh these risks.


Nitrogen Phosphorus Agricultural runoff Treatment wetlands 


  1. Arheimer B, Andersson L, Larsson M, Lindstrom G, Olsson J, Pers BC. Modelling diffuse nutrient flow in eutrophication control scenarios. Water Sci Technol. 2004;49:37–45.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Cho J, Vellidis G, Bosch D, Lowrance R, Strickland T. Water quality effects of simulated conservation practice scenarios in the Little River Experimental watershed. J Soil Water Conserv. 2010;65:463–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dierberg FE, DeBusk TA. Particulate phosphorus transformations in south Florida stormwater treatment areas used for Everglades protection. Ecol Eng. 2008;34:100–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Duan S, Kaushal SS, Groffman PM, Band LE, Belt KT. Phosphorus export across an urban to rural gradient in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. J Geophys Res Biogeosci. 2012;117:1–12. doi:10.1029/2011JG001782.Google Scholar
  5. Hefting MM, Bobbink R, De Caluwe H. Nitrous oxide emission and denitrification in chronically nitrate-loaded riparian buffer zones. J Environ Qual. 2003;32:1194–203.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Hefting MM, Bobbink R, Janssens MP. Spatial variation in denitrification and N2O emission in relation to nitrate removal efficiency in a n-stressed riparian buffer zone. Ecosystems. 2006;9:550–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hefting MM, Van den Heuvel RN, Verhoeven JTA. Wetlands in agricultural landscapes for nitrogen attenuation and biodiversity enhancement: Opportunities and limitations. Ecological Engineering. 2013;56:5–13.Google Scholar
  8. Juston J, DeBusk TA. Phosphorus mass load and outflow concentration relationships in stormwater treatment areas for Everglades restoration. Ecol Eng. 2006;26:206–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Knight RL, Gu BH, Clarke RA, Newman JM. Long-term phosphorus removal in Florida aquatic systems dominated by submerged aquatic vegetation. Ecol Eng. 2003;20:45–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lowrance R, Sheridan J, Williams R, Bosch D, Sullivan D, Blanchett D, Hargett L, Clegg C. Water quality and hydrology in farm-scale coastal plain watersheds: effects of agriculture, impoundments, and riparian zones. J Soil Water Conserv. 2007;62:65–76.Google Scholar
  11. MEA 2015. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (, UNEP.
  12. Mitsch WJ, Day JW. Restoration of wetlands in the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri (MOM) River Basin: experience and needed research. Ecol Eng. 2006;26:55–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mitsch WJ, Day JW, Gilliam JW, Groffman PM, Hey DL, Randall GW, Wang NM. Reducing nitrogen loading to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River Basin: strategies to counter a persistent ecological problem. BioScience. 2001;51:373–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rabalais NN, Turner RE, Dortch Q, Wiseman Jr WJ, Sen Gupta BK. Nutrient changes in the Mississippi river and system responses on the adjacent continental shelf. Estuaries. 1996;19(2B):386–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Schrier-Uijl AP. Kroon PS, Hendriks DMD. Agricultural peatlands: towards a greenhouse gas sink - a synthesis of a Dutch landscape study. Biogeosciences. 2014;11(16):4559–4576.Google Scholar
  16. Seitzinger S, Harrison J, Bohlke J, Bouwman A, Lowrance R, Peterson B, Tobias C, Van Drecht G. Denitrification across landscapes and waterscapes: a synthesis. Ecol Appl. 2006;16:2064–90.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Thiere G, Milenkovski S, Lindgren PE, Sahlen G, Berglund O, Weisner SEB. Wetland creation in agricultural landscapes: biodiversity benefits on local and regional scales. Biol Conserv. 2009;142:964–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Thiere G, Stadmark J, Weisner SEB. Nitrogen retention versus methane emission: environmental benefits and risks of large-scale wetland creation. Ecol Eng. 2011;37:6–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Tromp K, Lima AT, Barendregt A, Verhoeven JTA. Retention of heavy metals and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons from road water in a constructed wetland and the effect of de-icing. J Hazard Mater. 2012;203:290–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Verhoeven JTA, Arheimer B, Yin CQ, Hefting MM. Regional and global concerns over wetlands and water quality. Trends Ecol Evol. 2006;21:96–103.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Vidon P, Allan C, Burns D, Duval TP, Gurwick N, Inamdar S, Lowrance R, Okay J, Scott D, Sebestyen S. Hot spots and hot moments in riparian zones: potential for improved water quality management. J Am Water Resour Assoc. 2010;46:278–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Watson TK, Kellogg DQ, Addy K, Gold AJ, Stolt MH, Donohue SW, Groffman PM. Groundwater denitrification capacity of riparian zones in suburban and agricultural watersheds. J Am Water Resour Assoc. 2010;46:237–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Williams RG, Lowrance R, Wauchope R, Estes TL. Investigating riparian buffers impact on pesticide fate using the Riparian Ecosystem Management Model. Abstr Pap Am Chem Soc. 2009;238:576.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology and Biodiversity, Department of BiologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations