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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Assessing Conservation Effects on Water Quantity and Quality at Field and Watershed Scales

Location: National Soil Erosion Research

Title: A review on effectiveness of best management practices in improving hydrology and water quality: Needs and opportunities

Author
item Liu, Yaoze
item Engel, Bernard
item Flanagan, Dennis
item Gitau, Margaret
item Mcmillan, Sara
item Chaubey, Indrajeet
item Cherkauer, Keith

Submitted to: Science of the Total Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/23/2017
Publication Date: 6/1/2017
Citation: Liu, Y., Engel, B.A., Flanagan, D.C., Gitau, M.W., McMillan, S.K., Chaubey, I., Cherkauer, K.A. 2017. A review on effectiveness of best management practices in improving hydrology and water quality: Needs and opportunities. Science of the Total Environment. 601-602:580-593. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.05.212.

Interpretive Summary: This is a review article that summarizes and describes information on best management practices (BMPs) used to conserve soil and water resources in agricultural and urban settings. Some examples of BMPs are grassed waterways, constructed wetlands, and vegetative buffer strips. BMPs are often recommended and used in field situations to control specific erosion, water quality, or pollution problems; however there is very little information on how effective these practices are through time. This paper summarizes all results that could be located in the published literature from research studies that applied various BMPs and reported the effectiveness of the practices. Additionally it discusses how BMPs are simulated in natural resource computer models, limitations of the current approaches, and how these could be improved into the future. Discussion also includes research needs for determining the performance of BMPs in both short- and long-term experiments, and how results from new research could be used to improve prediction tools for modeling BMP effects. This research impacts research scientists, university faculty, students, natural resource conservation personnel and others involved in assessing ways to minimize soil erosion and pollutant losses from agricultural and urban areas. Better representation of the effectiveness of BMPs when installed and through their lifetime will allow for better planning to conserve soil and water resources, and minimize sediment and pollutant losses.

Technical Abstract: Best management practices (BMPs) have been widely used to address hydrology and water quality issues in both agricultural and urban areas. Increasing numbers of BMPs have been studied in research projects and implemented in watershed management projects, but a gap remains in quantifying their effectiveness through time. In this paper, we review the current knowledge about BMP efficiencies, which indicates that most empirical studies to date have focused on short-term or immediate efficiencies, while few have explored long-term efficiencies. Most simulation efforts that consider BMPs assume constant performance irrespective of the length of study period, generally based on anticipated maintenance activities or the expected performance over the life of the BMP(s). However, efficiencies of BMPs likely change over time irrespective of maintenance due to factors such as the variation of vegetation, degradation of structures, and accumulation of pollutants. Generally, the impacts of BMPs implemented in water quality protection programs at watershed scales have not been as rapid or large as expected, possibly due to overly high expectations for practice long-term efficiency, with BMPs even being sources of pollutants under some conditions and during some time periods. The review of available datasets reveals that current data are limited regarding both short-term and long-term BMP efficiency. Based on this review, suggestions are provided regarding needs and opportunities for quantifying both short-term and long-term performance of BMPs.

Last Modified: 09/21/2017
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