Water quality in estuarine impoundments
The impounding of estuaries is currently a popular approach to urban regeneration in the UK, with barrages constructed (Tees, Wansbeck, Tawe, Cardiff Bay, Lagan and Clyde) or proposed (Usk, Loughor, Neath, Hayle, Avonmouth and Ipswich) nationwide. Impounding fundamentally alters the dynamics of estuaries with consequences in terms of sedimentation patterns and rates, ecology, flooding, groundwater, etc. This thesis presents the findings from research into the effects of impounding on estuarine water quality. A series of surveys of a range of physical and chemical parameters were carried out within four estuaries representing the complete range of tidal modification by barrage construction. Internal versus external controls on water quality are distinguished. General water quality in estuarine impoundments is good, but significant problems occur where water bodies show entrenched density stratification, with anoxia and associated increases in ammonia and metal concentrations developing. Stratification related problems are worse in partial than total tidal exclusion impoundments (although a higher rate of tidal overtopping shortens the isolation periods of deep anoxic waters), and low water quality at depth is observed over the majority of the year. The potential for eutrophication is increased by barrage construction, although phosphorus (generally the limiting nutrient) is shown to be catchment sourced, with internal cycling from sediment insignificant. Sediment thickness is shown not to be a control on water quality, although sediment build-up over time eventually leads to a loss of amenity value. Sterol fingerprints are used to identify sewage inputs to the impoundments. Advice for barrage planners and designers is given, including the exclusion and removal of saline water, provision of destratification/aeration devices, control of nutrient inputs, and modelling of sediment loads and deposition. This study has shown that catchment management is fundamental in the sustainability of estuarine impoundments.