Mitigating nonpoint source pollution in agriculture with constructed and restored wetlands


Nonpoint source pollution (NPSP) from agricultural runoff threatens drinking water quality, aquatic habitats, and a variety of other beneficial uses of water resources. Agricultural runoff often contains a suite of water-quality contaminants, such as nutrients, pesticides, pathogens, sediment, salts, trace metals, and substances, contributing to biological oxygen demand. Increasingly, growers who discharge agricultural runoff must comply with water-quality regulations and implement management practices to reduce NPSP. Constructed and restored wetlands are one of many best management practices that growers can employ to address this problem. This review focuses on the ability of constructed and restored wetlands to mitigate a variety of water-quality contaminants common to most agricultural landscapes. We found that constructed and restored wetlands remove or retain many water-quality contaminants in agricultural runoff if carefully designed and managed. Contaminant removal efficiency generally exceeded 50% for sediment, nitrate, microbial pathogens, particulate phosphorus, hydrophobic pesticides, and selected trace elements when wetlands were placed in the correct settings. There are some potentially adverse effects of constructed and restored wetlands that must be considered, including accumulation of mercury and selenium, increased salinity, mosquito habitat, and greenhouse gas emissions. Proper wetland management and design features are discussed in order to reduce these adverse effects, while optimizing contaminant removal. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

In: Advances in Agronomy, pp. 1–76