Catchment process affecting drinking water quality, including the significance of rainfall events, using factor analysis and event mean concentrations

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

To ensure the protection of drinking water an understanding of the catchment processes which can affect water quality is important as it enables targeted catchment management actions to be implemented. In this study factor analysis (FA) and comparing event mean concentrations (EMCs) with baseline values were techniques used to asses the relationships between water quality parameters and linking those parameters to processes within an agricultural drinking water catchment. FA found that 55% of the variance in the water quality data could be explained by the first factor, which was dominated by parameters usually associated with erosion. Inclusion of pathogenic indicators in an additional FA showed that Enterococcus and Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) were also related to the erosion factor. Analysis of the EMCs found that most parameters were significantly higher during periods of rainfall runoff. This study shows that the most dominant processes in an agricultural catchment are surface runoff and erosion. It also shows that it is these processes which mobilise pathogenic indicators and are therefore most likely to influence the transport of pathogens. Catchment management efforts need to focus on reducing the effect of these processes on water quality.

Keywords: catchment, drinking water quality, event mean concentration, factor analysis

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