The sources of Phosphorus in the waters of Great Britain

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Total phosphorus (TP) and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) loads to watercourses of the River Basin Districts (RBDs) of Great Britain (GB) were estimated using inventories of industrial P loads and estimates of P loads from sewage treatment works and diffuse P loads calculated using region-specific export coefficients for particular land cover classes combined with census data for agricultural stocking densities and human populations. The TP load to GB waters was estimated to be 60 kt yr–1, of which households contributed 73%, agriculture contributed 20%, industry contributed 3%, and 4% came from background sources. The SRP load to GB waters was estimated to be 47 kt yr–1, of which households contributed 78%, agriculture contributed 13%, industry contributed 4%, and 6% came from background sources. The ‘average’ area-normalized TP and SRP loads to GB waters approximated 2.4 kg ha–1 yr–1 and 1.8 kg ha–1 yr–1, respectively. A consideration of uncertainties in the data contributing to these estimates suggested that the TP load to GB waters might lie between 33 and 68 kt yr–1, with agriculture contributing between 10 and 28% of the TP load. These estimates are consistent with recent appraisals of annual TP and SRP loads to GB coastal waters and area-normalized TP loads from their catchments. Estimates of the contributions of RBDs to these P loads were consistent with the geographical distribution of P concentrations in GB rivers and recent assessments of surface waters at risk from P pollution.

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