The Aquisafe project aims at mitigation of diffuse pollution from agricultural sources to protect surface water resources. The first project phase (2007-2009) focused on the review of available information and preliminary tests regarding (i) most relevant contaminants, (ii) system-analytical tools to assess sources and pathways of diffuse agricultural pollution, (iii) the potential of mitigation zones, such as wetlands or riparian buffers, to reduce diffuse agricultural pollution of surface waters and (iv) experimental setups to simulate mitigation zones under controlled conditions. The present report deals with (ii) and aims at identifying numerical modelling tools that can assess the origin of contaminants as well as the impact of different mitigation measures regarding water quality aspects on a catchment scale. In order to test the identified modelling tool in the further course of the Aquisafe project a case study was found in Brittany (France) in agreement with Veolia Eau: the small watershed of the river Ic. Due to intensive agricultural land use the nitrate concentration exceeds the threshold for surface water used for drinking water purpose (which is the main concern of Veolia Eau). Additionally, trace contaminants (pesticides) were detected in the surface water ever since measurements have been carried out. Therefore modelling shall mainly support the water supplier in actions aiming at reducing the nitrate concentration in the surface water. An additional task could later on be the application of the model in order to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures against trace contamination. In order to choose the most appropriate model a model comparison was carried out using a three step approach. The first step was a screening of different information sources and resulted in the identification of 44 existing models. The second step was a pre-selection according to essential criteria in order to identify models that fulfil the basic requirements for a) the Ic nitrate issue and b) the Aquisafe trace contaminant issue. In a third step a multicriteria analysis was carried out using 6 additional criteria followed by a final recommendation. The essential criteria used for the pre-selection of the models were a) the inclusion of major hydrological processes, b) the inclusion of the nitrogen cycle (for the Ic nitrate issue) or the inclusion of trace contaminants (for the Aquisafe trace contaminant issue) c) the size of catchments that can be modelled, d) the temporal and spatial resolution and e) the possibility to include management options and/or mitigation measures. For the Ic nitrate issue this resulted in the selection of the models: HBV-NP, HSPF, SWIM, SWAT, WASMOD and Mike She. For the Aquisafe trace contaminant issue only four models remained after the pre-selection process: DRIPS, HSPF, SWAT and Mike She. Additional criteria were then applied and resulted in the recommendation to use the model SWAT for further investigations in both cases due to sufficient accuracy and included processes (full hydrological model with water quality simulation (nutrients and trace contaminants) as well as a wide range of successful applications (amongst others). This report presents a wide range of models with their capabilities and limits. It contains criteria which were identified with the stakeholders in order to choose the most appropriate model. The approach presented in this report shall support the decision process of selecting a model for a certain problem regarding water quality and includes only a recommendation. The final decision on which model shall be applied, will be taken in agreement with the stakeholders Veolia Eau and Goel’Eaux.


In the rural and semi-rural environment many sources of contamination may impact surface water quality. In addition to nutrients from agricultural activities, contaminants occurring at low concentration so-called trace contaminants are a growing issue for water quality. To address this issue and investigate mitigation measures, the Berlin Centre of Competence for Water (KompetenzZentrum Wasser Berlin) developed a collaborative research project called Aquisafe, in association with the Indiana University – Perdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), the German Federal Agency for the Environment “Umweltbundesamt” (UBA) and Veolia Water. The project aims at investigating mitigation zones such as constructed wetlands or riparian zones to improve the quality of surface water with respect to diffuse pollution. Before using models and conducting field experiments, the first part of the project is an extensive analysis of the nature, occurrence, and risks of source water contamination in rural and semi-rural areas. This is the subject of the poster. The objectives of this first part of the project are (i) to provide background information on surface water and its use in Europe, particularly regarding drinking water supply, (ii) to investigate the characteristics of the families of pollutants that are potentially of interest, and finally (iii) to select the most relevant trace contaminants to be investigated in future field experiments. To reach these objectives, an extensive literature review was carried out, using different criteria to select the relevant families of pollutants and then the individual substances. The screening process is currently in progress and includes a collection of substance characteristics that will be used for subsequent selection, such as toxicity or persistence in the environment. Key figures and information were collected concerning the nature, use and vulnerability of surface water in Europe that provides 70% of total water abstraction (drinking water, industry and agriculture) in Europe. The main pollutant families of interest for the screening process were the following: pesticides used in agriculture (e.g. glyphosate or isoproturon), pollutants coming from the spreading of animal waste on land (e.g. veterinary pharmaceuticals or hormones), pollutants coming from the spreading of sludge from wastewater treatment plants (e.g. heavy metals or hormones), pollutants from natural areas (e.g. flame retardants in forests), and pollutants from transportation networks (e.g. heavy metals from vehicles). Consequently in a rural or semi-rural area, the land use in the watershed plays a key role in the selection and assessment of priority pollutants coming from diffuse sources and entering surface waters. The work is still in progress concerning the review of pollutant families, and will lead to the final screening at substance level, providing a list of key contaminants for the other work packages within the Aquisafe project. Eventually, corresponding data for the same issues in the United States will be added and provide a comparison between the two continents.

Matzinger, A. , Renoult, T. , Guégain, C. , Julich, S. , Strube, T. , Orlikowski, D. , Sautjeau, B. , Grützmacher, G. (2008): Diffuse pollution and potential mitigation strategies - two case studies within the Aquisafe Project from agriculturally dominated Brittany (France).

p 1 In: CEES Spring Science Meeting, Center for Earth and Environmental Science, Indiana University-Purdue University. Indianapolis. 9. - 10.4.2008


The Aquisafe project is a cooperation of the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI, USA), the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA, Germany) and the Berlin Centre of Competence for Water (KWB, Germany). The aim of the project is the development of a scheme for natural mitigation zones to protect surface waters from diffuse pollution in rural and semi-rural environments. In particular, key contaminants, applicable management and modelling tools and potential substance removal by constructed wetlands or riparian zones are being studied. Within these frameworks, two case studies are carried out in Brittany, the number one agricultural region in France. A hydrological model is currently being applied on the Ic catchment (92 km2) to test its capability of (i) understanding hydrological, basin-scale regimes, (ii) predicting the effect of mitigation measures and (iii) distinguishing diffusion pathways for different types of contaminants. In the second case study, a constructed wetland in Iffendic on the River Meu is monitored as an example of a natural and inexpensive mitigation option. On the way through the wetland nitrate concentrations from drainage inflows to the river decreased more than tenfold. In the ongoing monitoring, knowledge on hydrological flowpaths is improved to be able to quantify the retention potential of constructed wetlands in Brittany for nitrate and other agriculturally-based pollutants, such as pesticides.

Strube, T. , Grützmacher, G. , Jacinthe, P.-A. , Vidon, P. , Tedesco, L. (2007): Mitigation of contaminants in rural and semi-rural environments to protect surface water for drinking water supply - the Aquisafe-project.

p 1 In: Modelkey conference: "Risk assessment in European River Basins - State of the Art and Future Challenges". Leipzig. 12. - 14.11.2007


Major reservoirs are a key element for public water supply in many countries. In Europe over 800 major reservoirs serve primarily this purpose. Eutrophication affects significant numbers of lakes and reservoirs, and is the well-known issue currently impacting drinking water supply reservoirs. In most cases, phosphorus is the principal cause of eutrophication, and therefore has been studied intensively. The presence of micro pollutants (e.g. pesticides, pharmaceutically active compounds - PhaCs) is not systematically monitored but some substances are very mobile and tend to resist degradation. Such contaminants have been detected in numerous surface water bodies (lakes, reservoirs and rivers). As agriculture is intensifying and land use is changing in many areas, the impact of diffuse pollution on water quality is expected to be more pervasive in the future. The project Aquisafe proposes to investigate the topic in a multi-step approach which will include: i) an analysis of the nature, occurrence and risk of surface water contamination, ii) a modelling approach to quantify the contaminants origin, load and repartition to assess the effects of adapted controlled measures, and iii) the development, adaptation or optimisation of the design and operation of mitigation zones (riparian corridors and small scale wetlands) to reduce downstream loads of pollutants. Thus, Aquisafe is a first step to establish the state-of-the-knowledge on current existing solutions, identify emerging issues and assess the feasibility of using models for the evaluation of mitigation zones for contaminants removal. Within the Aquisafe project it will expected: i) a recommendation on potential key substances to be targeted, also for further investigations, ii) an identification of drinking water source vulnerability to emerging contaminants using a coupled modelling approaches, and iii) an analysis of existing mitigation methods and scientific background for the construction of riparian corridors and/or constructed wetlands in order to mitigate trace contaminants entering the surface water.

Schauser, I. , Strube, T. (2005): Perspectives of Lake Modelling towards Predicting Reaction to Throphic Change.

p 86. KWB Schriftenreihe. Kompetenzzentrum Wasser Berlin gGmbH. Berlin


Two major points of view prevail in modelling aquatic ecosystems. For practitioners, the key question in modelling aquatic ecosystems is how well models describe system reactions to changes – particularly trophic change and climate change – and in consequence, how useful models are for predicting system responses and for informing water-body management. For researchers, the modelling objective is to investigate functional interactions between ecosystem components, to understand complex causalities and to identify knowledge gaps to close with further lab and field work. Ideally, successful modelling should address both purposes. A need for more intensive communication between modellers of both groups, as well as other model users, was identified at a modellers’ workshop organised by the project “OLIGO” in autumn 2005. OLIGO (2003-2007) was a project of the Berlin Centre of Competence for Water (KWB), executed by researchers of the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) and the Berliner Wasserbetriebe (BWB) and funded by Veolia Water. Following up on the recommendation of this workshop and in the context of finalising this project, UBA together with KWB organised a 2-day workshop in Berlin, 8-9 November 2007. The workshop was hosted by the Berliner Wasserbetriebe and brought together 60 modellers and model users from 6 countries. The workshop aimed to consolidate and document the state of the art in modelling water quality in reaction to nutrient load or climate change, to discuss how well current lake and reservoir models can support and inform decision-makers, including dealing with the uncertainty of model predictions, and to explore future perspectives and needs for the development of models.

Do you want to download “{filename}” {filesize}?

In order to optimally design and continuously improve our website for you, we use cookies. By continuing to use the website, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information on cookies, please see our privacy policy.