The effect of vegetation and soil texture on the nature of organics in runoff from a catchment supplying water for domestic consumption

John Awad, John van Leeuwen, Dawit Abate, Markus Pichler, Erick Bestland, David Chittleborough, Nigel Fleming, Jonathan Cohen, Joel Liffner, Mary Drikas

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    15 Citations (Scopus)


    The influence of vegetation and soil texture on the concentration and character of dissolved organic matter (DOM) present in runoff from the surface and sub-surface of zero order catchments of the Myponga Reservoir-catchment (South Australia) was investigated to determine the impacts of catchment characteristics and land management practices on the quality of waters used for domestic supply. Catchments selected have distinct vegetative cover (grass, native vegetation or pine) and contrasting texture of the surface soil horizon (sand or clay loam/clay). Water samples were collected from three slope positions (upper, middle, and lower) at soil depths of ~. 30. cm and ~. 60. cm in addition to overland flows. Filtered (0.45. μm) water samples were analyzed for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and UV-visible absorbance and by F-EEM and HPSEC with UV and fluorescence detection to characterize the DOM. Surface and sub-surface runoff from catchments with clay soils and native vegetation or grass had lower DOC concentrations and lower relative abundances of aromatic, humic-like and high molecular weight organics than runoff from sandy soils with these vegetative types. Sub-surface flows from two catchments with Pinus radiata had similar DOC concentrations and DOM character, regardless of marked variation in surface soil texture. Runoff from catchments under native vegetation and grass on clay soils resulted in lower DOC concentrations and hence would be expected to have lower coagulant demand in conventional treatment for potable water supply than runoff from corresponding sandy soil catchments. However, organics in runoff from clay catchments would be more difficult to remove by coagulation. Surface waters from the native vegetation and grass catchments were generally found to have higher relative abundance of organic compounds amenable to removal by coagulation compared with sub-surface waters. Biophysical and land management practices combine to have a marked influence on the quality of source water used for domestic supply.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)72-81
    Number of pages10
    JournalScience of The Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


    • Fluorescence-EEM
    • Land use
    • Molecular weight
    • Organic carbon
    • Sub-surface flow
    • Surface runoff


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