Throughout the project area the main concerns are around pollution of groundwater, rivers, lakes and coastal waters. There are many factors that can affect water quality; often the problem arises through a combination of small amounts of pollutants from many different sources accumulating and causing a decline in overall water quality.
There are two main types of pollution - Point and Non-point (diffuse) sources
Point Source Pollution
Point-source pollution is pollution that can be traced back to a single origin or source, such as a sewage treatment plant discharge.
Point-source pollutants in surface water and groundwater are usually found in a plume that has the highest concentrations of the pollutant nearest the source (such as the end of a pipe) and diminishing concentrations farther away from the source. The various types of point-source pollutants found in waters are as varied as the types of business, industrial, agricultural, and urban sources that produce them.
Non-point or Diffuse Pollution
Diffuse pollution can come from many different sources and is closely linked to land use; e.g. application of fertiliser to farmland or forestry plantations; livestock stocking rates on pastureland; and handling, transporting and storing of oil, chemicals and raw materials in industry and agriculture.
Waste and other materials management
If a business does not handle, store, and dispose of raw materials and wastes properly, these pollutants could end up in the water supply. This may occur through discharges at the end of a pipe to surface water, discharges on the ground that move through the ground with infiltrating rainwater, or direct discharges beneath the ground surface.
Pollution from Nitrate
The main focus of the project is to identify potential sources of nitrate pollution and to work with those responsible to develop best management practices that will reduce those risks. The Project Manager has funds to provide assistance and advice to help make these changes and aims to work with people to make improvements long before the need to use enforcement to ensure changes are made.
The diagram below shows the nitrogen cycle, illustrating both the natural and man- made processes that cause nitrogen (in all its forms) to exist in the environment. This illustration shows how excess nitrates and other pollutants entering groundwater, surface water and coastal waters can broadly be broken down into two categories: rural/agricultural (left) and urban/industrial pollution (right).
These include phosphate, sediment, pesticides, hydrocarbons (e.g. fuels and oils), and faecal matter/pathogens that are derived from agriculture, industry (including sewage discharges), equine sources, local authority use and domestic sources - such as septic tanks. Such contaminants can affect rivers, harbours and maritime environments, and drinking water. As the Downs & Harbours project principally works with agriculture and other land mangers/users, it cannot deal with all such sources (that are therefore regulated by the Environment Agency and local authorities) but provides free advice and services where it can.