The impact of agricultural activities on water quality: A case for collaborative catchment-scale management using integrated wireless sensor networks

H. Zia, N.R. Harris, G.V. Merrett, Mark Rivers, Neil Coles

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

50 Citations (Scopus)


The challenge of improving water quality is a growing global concern, typified by the European Commission Water Framework Directive and the United States Clean Water Act. The main drivers of poor water quality are economics, poor water management, agricultural practices and urban development. This paper reviews the extensive role of non-point sources, in particular the outdated agricultural practices, with respect to nutrient and contaminant contributions. Water quality monitoring (WQM) is currently undertaken through a number of data acquisition methods from grab sampling to satellite based remote sensing of water bodies. Based on the surveyed sampling methods and their numerous limitations, it is proposed that wireless sensor networks (WSNs), despite their own limitations, are still very attractive and effective for real-time spatio-temporal data collection for WQM applications. WSNs have been employed for WQM of surface and ground water and catchments, and have been fundamental in advancing the knowledge of contaminants trends through their high resolution observations. However, these applications have yet to explore the implementation and impact of this technology for management and control decisions, to minimise and prevent individual stakeholder's contributions, in an autonomous and dynamic manner. Here, the potential of WSN-controlled agricultural activities and different environmental compartments for integrated water quality management is presented and limitations of WSN in agriculture and WQM are identified. Finally, a case for collaborative networks at catchment scale is proposed for enabling cooperation among individually networked activities/stakeholders (farming activities, water bodies) for integrated water quality monitoring, control and management. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-138
JournalComputers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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