Efficacy of Vegetated Buffers in Preventing Transport of Fecal Coliform Bacteria from Pasturelands
Environmental Management , 40 , 2007

Sullivan, T.J., Moore, J.A., Thomas, D.R., Mallery, E., Snyder, K.U., Wustenberg, M., Wustenberg, J., Mackey, S.D., Moore, D.L.

Abstract An experimental study was conducted in Tillamook, Oregon, USA, to quantify the effectiveness of edge-of-field vegetated buffers for reducing transport of fecal coliform bacteria (FCB) from agricultural fields amended with dairy cow manure. Installation of vegetated buffers on loamy soils dramatically reduced the bacterial contamination of runoff water from manure-treated pasturelands, but the size of the vegetated buffer was not an important determinant of bacterial removal efficiency. Only 10% of the runoff samples collected from treatment cells having vegetated buffers exhibited FCB concentrations >200 colony forming units (cfu)/100 mL (a common water quality standard value), and the median concentration for all cells containing vegetated buffers was only 6 cfu/100 mL. The presence of a vegetated buffer of any size, from 1 to 25 m, generally reduced the median FCB concentration in runoff by more than 99%. Results for FCB load calculations were similar. Our results suggest that where substantial FCB contamination of runoff occurs from manure-treated pasturelands, it might be disproportionately associated with specific field or management conditions, such as the presence of soils that exhibit low water infiltration and generate larger volumes of runoff or the absence of a vegetated buffer. Buffer size regulations that do not consider such differences might not be efficient or effective in reducing bacterial contamination of runoff.