Water quality impacts of tile drains in shallow, sloping, structured soils as affected by manure application

C. A. Scott, L. D. Geohring, M. F. Walter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Tile drains are one of several best management practices whose purpose is to reduce the export of contaminants to receiving waters. It is conventionally assumed that contaminants are effectively retained in the soil prior to subsurface water entering the drain. Two conditions may result in significantly elevated contaminant loading in tile effluent: preferential flow through macropores, and steep slopes which increase drainage in shallow, permeable soils on a hardpan. This article presents field monitoring data on phosphorus and fecal coliforms measured in New York State watersheds under both conditions described, and examines the mechanisms for increased tile drain contaminant delivery from manure-applied fields to streams. Soluble phosphorus concentrations peaked at 1.17 mg/L, and as much as 37% of soluble phosphorus was exported from the field site via subsurface drains. Fecal coliform concentrations peaked at 71,000 organisms/100 mL. The total number of fecal coliforms discharged from the drain during the flow event would have required about 75 fold dilution to bring the fecal coliform concentration to a municipal wastewater treatment plant discharge effluent standard of 400 organisms/100 mL. Under some conditions, the contaminant discharge from subsurface drains may also have significant water quality impacts to receiving waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-603
Number of pages5
JournalApplied Engineering in Agriculture
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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