Abstract. Surface runoff represents a major pathway for pesticide transport from agricultural areas to surface waters. The influence of artificial structures (e.g. roads, hedges, and ditches) on surface runoff connectivity has been shown in various studies. In Switzerland, so-called hydraulic shortcuts (e.g. inlet and maintenance shafts of road or field storm drainage systems) have been shown to influence surface runoff connectivity and related pesticide transport. Their occurrence and their influence on surface runoff and pesticide connectivity have, however, not been studied systematically. To address that deficit, we randomly selected 20 study areas (average size of 3.5 km 2) throughout the Swiss plateau, representing arable cropping systems. We assessed shortcut occurrence in these study areas using three mapping methods, namely field mapping, drainage plans, and high-resolution aerial images. Surface runoff connectivity in the study areas was analysed using a 2×2 m digital elevation model and a multiple-flow algorithm. Parameter uncertainty affecting this analysis was addressed by a Monte Carlo simulation. With our approach, agricultural areas were divided into areas that are either directly, indirectly (i.e. via hydraulic shortcuts), or not at all connected to surface waters. Finally, the results of this connectivity analysis were scaled up to the national level, using a regression model based on topographic descriptors, and were then compared to an existing national connectivity model. Inlet shafts of the road storm drainage system were identified as the main shortcuts. On average, we found 0.84 inlet shafts and a total of 2.0 shafts per hectare of agricultural land. In the study catchments, between 43 % and 74 % of the agricultural area is connected to surface waters via hydraulic shortcuts. On the national level, this fraction is similar and lies between 47 % and 60 %. Considering our empirical observations led to shifts in estimated fractions of connected areas compared to the previous connectivity model. The differences were most pronounced in flat areas of river valleys. These numbers suggest that transport through hydraulic shortcuts is an important pesticide flow path in a landscape where many engineered structures exist to drain excess water from fields and roads. However, this transport process is currently not considered in Swiss pesticide legislation and authorization. Therefore, current regulations may fall short in addressing the full extent of the pesticide problem. However, independent measurements of water flow and pesticide transport to quantify the contribution of shortcuts and validating the model results are lacking. Overall, the findings highlight the relevance of better understanding the connectivity between fields and receiving waters and the underlying factors and physical structures in the landscape.
Urs Schönenberger, Christian Stamm
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences