Water Resources Management

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 119–130 | Cite as

An Investigation of the Impacts of Agricultural Runoff on the Water Quality and Aquatic Organisms in a Lowveld Sand River System in Southeast Zimbabwe

  • Clifford TafangenyashaEmail author
  • Lawrence T. Dube


In this research we examined the hypothesis that agricultural pollution is a key determinant of variability in nutrients concentrations and benthic fauna in a semi-arid tropical lowveld region of southeast Zimbabwe. Water quality was monitored in the river water column and river bottom sediments at a time when dissolved oxygen concentration was thought to be very low during the winter period in the rivers passing through low input agricultural sections and intensive commercial agricultural sections. The surveys used established chemical methods and biological methods. Benthic fauna assemblages were used to complement chemical cases of nutrient loading at localities chosen for sampling. Unpolluted control sites were not significantly different (t test, p < 0.05) from polluted sites in levels in mean values of dissolved oxygen, conductivity, total dissolved solids and mean density (no.m2) of benthic invertebrates in May. Significant differences (t test, p < 0.05) were not found in mean values of calcium, magnesium, potassium, total nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen and total phosphorous in river bottom sediments in May and August. These data certainly do not support the notion that the Runde River is severely polluted by the upstream agricultural activities and the hypothesis that agricultural runoff is a key determinant of water quality is rejected. As the data suggests the Runde River may be receiving moderate nutrient pollution. The positive effects of moderate eutrophication on fish catch and the trade-off in pollution implied here needs to be addressed by appropriate agricultural and environmental policies that relate to water pollution and land use.

Key words

agricultural runoff water quality nutrients benthic invertebrates 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and HealthNational University of Science and TechnologyBulawayoZimbabwe
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental ScienceUniversity of ZululandKwaDlangezwaSouth Africa

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