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AQUARIUS project

Assessing water quality improvement options concerning nutrient and pharmaceutical contaminants in rural watersheds

Czech-Norwegian Research Programme (CZ09), project n. 7F14341 (2014 – 2017)

Coordination: Czech University of Life Sciences Prague


  • G. Masaryk Water Research Institute
  • Research Institute for Soil and Water Conservation
  • Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (NIBIO)

The project AQUARIUS is focused on evaluation of significant point and non-point sources of water pollution and its origins including evaluating the current/typical and alternative waste water treatment methods, aiming at minimizing surface and groundwater pollution. Attention is turned to reveal the true concentration/load dynamics of main nutrients and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), for which the factors/parameters of the related processes are assessed. The project assesses cost effective land and agricultural management actions or measures and waste water treatment technologies, including the use of constructed wetlands, to enhance landscape´s retaining water potential and to reduce input of pollutants into waters. Both for water quantity and quality, methods of continuous monitoring are employed in submerged hydrological and hydrogeological units of various scales.  Results from monitoring serve as a base for modelling approach within a catchment area. Short term events as well as long term water balance are modelled to distinguish and quantify runoff components and pollution being transported by them. Models simulate diverse scenarios of land use, agricultural management, wastewater technologies and involvement of various biotechnical measures to increase water retention time in a catchment and to enhance surface and groundwater quality. The project outcomes are necessary for completing conceptual and expert documents and guidelines for soil and water conservative management and proper wastewater treatment in a catchment scale, as well as for planning of land use within areas used as water supply sources.

The AQUARIUS work plan is divided between 4 technical WPs and 1 WP dedicated to management, dissemination and coordination.

WP1: Testing the efficiency in removal of nutrients and pharmaceuticals from waste water

Objective: Testing the effectiveness of diverse alternative wastewater treatment approaches/methods and formulating their applicability for small villages/dwellings. Aspects of: water quality and quantity, costs, management.

WP2: Monitoring of waste water types, surface- and groundwater pollution in the catchment sites

Objective: Reveal the true concentration/load dynamics and source of origin of the main nutrients and PPCPs. Assess the effectiveness of current treatment technologies for waste waters containing pharmaceuticals and the processes of natural attenuation of pharmaceuticals in the rock environment.

WP3: Modelling of hydrological and environmental data

Objective: Integration of findings from WP1 and WP2 to model water and nutrient balance of selected area (watershed, sub-catchment/wetland system itself or more units together).

WP4: Cost and social analyses

Objective: Assessment of all measures / changes in waste water treatments and catchment management from the view of cost / effectiveness to formulate options for (re)constructing the WWTP, wetlands and/or alterations on land use within a catchment (grassing of arable land, etc.).

WP5: Coordination, dissemination and management

WP6: Economical and social problems of drugs in water

This WP6 was added in the year 2016 to support the socio-economic results of the project.

Main objective of additional research activities is to increase the quality of ongoing sociological survey among Czech and Norwegian populations. This survey examines the reaction of people to information that the water for the drinking purposes contains potentially harmful substances. These issues are addressed by means of statistical evaluation of questionnaires distributed in network of Norwegian and Czech communities around the existing pilot sites. The questionnaire, which takes into account social, economic and genders factors, age and education issues, has already been designed and approved by the Czech and Norwegian partners. The weakness of the existing solutions is the limited informative value of this survey, which is based on a relatively small number of the answers, which, in addition, will come from only a few locations.

The aim of additional research activities is to eliminate this problem and to expand an inquiry to a much wider range of respondents. New study should gain a statistically more significant amount of data, which will include a more diverse set of processed data (including e.g. the urban population, the municipality of protected areas and vice versa very environmentally affected regions). This will significantly improve the planned output.


Rainfall-runoff events significantly influence water runoff and the loss of pollutants from tile-drained agricultural land. We monitored ten small (4 to 38 ha) tile-drained catchments in Czechia for three to five years (2012 to 2016). The discharge was measured continuously; a regular 14-day scheme of water quality monitoring was accompanied with event sampling provided by automatic samplers in 20 to 120 min intervals. A new semi-automated algorithm was developed for the identification of runoff events (RE) based on discharge and water temperature changes. We then quantified the share of RE on the total runoff and the N and P losses, and we compared six methods for nutrient load estimation on an annual and monthly basis. The results showed considerable differences among the monitored sites, seasons, and applied methods. The share of RE on N loads was on average 5% to 30% of the total annual load, whereas for P (dissolved and total), the share of RE was on average 10% to 80% on the total annual load. The most precise method for nutrient load estimation included the RE. The methods based on point monitoring of the discharge and water quality underestimated the loads of N by 10% to 20% and of P by 30% to 80%. The acquired findings are crucial for the improvement of nutrient load assessment in tile-drained catchments, as well as for the design of various mitigation measures on tile-drained agricultural land.

Fučík, P.; Zajíček, A.; Kaplická, M.; Duffková, R.; Peterková, J.; Maxová, J.; Takáčová, Š. Incorporating Rainfall-Runoff Events into Nitrate-Nitrogen and Phosphorus Load Assessments for Small Tile-Drained Catchments. Water 2017, 9, 712.

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