Evaluation of sediment yield and water quality in agricultural catchments of Navarre (Spain)

R. Giménez, J. Casalí, J. Díez


The Government of Navarre (Spain) established a series of experimental watersheds on different sites of its territory in order to assess the impact of the agricultural activities on the environment. Hydrological/meteorological and water quality data are continuously monitored. In this paper, data recorded –precipitation, runoff, sediment, nitrate and phosphate– in two grain-sown watersheds (La Tejería and Latxaga) and in a third one (Oskotz) covered with forest and pasture (cattle-breeding) with a sub-watershed almost entirely under forest, are analyzed; the information covers a period of ca. 15 years. The inter/intra annual variability of the involved processes are studied as well as their impact on the water quality and on the ecosystem. The majority of the sediments yielded in the watersheds are registered during winter, though most of the erosive rainfalls occurred in summer. This is because of the easy-prone runoff that prevailed during winter due to the (much) higher water content of the soils in this period. The grain-sown watersheds –roughly similar at first view– present however important differences regarding sediment yield: 1800 kg/ha year at La Tejería and only 450 kg/ha year at Latxaga. This could be mainly due to differences in morphology, topography, and amount of stream channel vegetation between both sites. At Oskotz this figures are as a whole lower than those registered in the cultivated watersheds but eventually larger than those at Latxaga; this depending on the forest management (logging). Water quality is seriously affected at La Tejería with nitrate concentration constantly over critical threshold. By contrast, nitrate values are much lower in Latxaga watershed. However, phosphate concentrations were similar in both grain-sown watersheds corresponding to water with a significant risk of eutrophication. The cattle-breeding activity at Oskotz generated unexpected levels of phosphate much higher than those registered in the cultivated wathersheds.


runoff, sediment, nitrate, phosphate, water quality, experimental watersheds, Mediterranean region, land use, Navarre


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18172/cig.1273

Copyright (c) 2013 R. Giménez, J. Casalí, J. Díez

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© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

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