Urban runoff quality in the river Sowe catchment

  • Michael Hyde

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    There have been no previous studies carried out on the impact of urban runoff in the Coventry City centre area. The culverted nature of the River Sherbourne, and many of its tributaries, makes the investigation of intermittent pollution and rainfall events expensive and impractical, when using traditional spot sample methods. Storm events have been monitored over a period of over 60 months upstream and downstream of the City, using continuous water quality monitors and auto-spot sample methods. The receiving waters of the River Avon had previously suffered annual fish mortalities as a result of summer storm events causing oxygen depletion. Previous studies (Clifforde and Williams 1997) on the impact of Coventry Sewage Treatment Works effluent on the watercourse, have suggested a major component of the intermittent pollutant load arising from the City (upstream of the Sewage Treatment Works), which requires evaluation and remediation.

    This research identifies the contaminants found during a series of storm events impacting on the River Sherbourne culvert and discusses the relationship between them and the increased flow measured The methodology was divided into 3 Phases; Phase 1 examined all of the watercourses in the River Sowe catchment and identified the culverted streams and drainage system giving an indication of the presence of pollutant sources. Continuous monitors were deployed within the four identified drainage systems to pinpoint intermittent and illegal contaminated discharges, and these discharges were subsequently redirected to the foul sewer or stopped. Phase 2 examined the quality of the River Sherbourne culvert upstream and downstream of1be city centre. and demonstrated (using continuous monitors and automated sampling). that six combined sewer overt1ows discharging to the watercourse upstream of the culvert were operating unsatisfactorily_ The dissolved oxygen levels were significantly reduced during rainfall events (with a loss of diurnal variation), and total ammonium levels exceeded current water quality standards. The results were used to instigate a remediation scheme to replace the overflows with additional foul sewerage capacity, and a single high-level storm relief.

    Phase 3 examined the impact of urban runoff during rainfall events after the improvements made following Phases ] and 2. The results suggest a marked improvement in the water quality, with little impact from organic pollutants. Dissolved oxygen concentrations remained high during many of the post-remedial rainfall events, and ammonia levels remained largely insignificant. The results indicated a fall in pH levels during the rainfall events and increases in all of the heavy metals analysed, though not beyond current water quality guidelines.

    The efficiency of using continuous monitoring in Coventry was assessed and likely sources of the contaminants in urban runoff were considered. The statistics of compliance with percentile standards do not a)low for short-term pollution or storm events, which may kill all aquatic life whilst not breaching water quality standards. Using continuous monitors to identity intermittent and illegal discharges in underground drainage systems was an efficient and cost-effective method of reducing the impact of urban runoff in a failing watercourse. The methodology can be applied to other urban areas to identify unidentified illegal and intermittent point sources. Routine monthly monitoring of an urban watercourse may not identify the peaks and troughs associated with rainfall events that may breach toxicological guidelines. and will not identify intermittent and unknown pollutant sources; particularly when discharging outside of normal working hours.

    This research was a unique and comprehensive investigation into the nature and composition of urban runoff in the City of Coventry, and local data gathered will be invaluable in promoting further research, improving local knowledge of the urban environment in preparation for the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), and in planning for environmental improvements in the future.
    Date of Award2006
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorIan D.L. Foster (Supervisor), Chris Pratt (Supervisor) & Sue Charlesworth (Supervisor)

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