Report on a scoping study for an agro-ecosystem indicator of the risk of water contamination by pathogens from agricultural operations
Sustainable use of Canada's natural resources by the agri-food sector requires both the benchmarking of the magnitude of those resources and continued monitoring of their quality. A further step required is the development of management practices and their implementation at locations of greatest vulnerability. Freshwater resources in agricultural regions are important for continued primary production, but also because the water is commonly used for recreational purposes, provides the basis for fisheries, is harvested from these regions for potable supplies used by municipalities, and provides a varied habitat for plants and animals. Establishing vulnerable locations and providing a minimum level of water quality monitoring is expensive, and identifying likely beneficial management practices across the country requires considerable effort. Remote sensing techniques coupled with simulation modelling offers the most effective means of achieving these objectives, but our knowledge of many processes that result in the contamination of surface and ground water resources at the watershed and regional level is still rudimentary in many cases (Goss, 1994). Another approach is to identify and develop indicators that combine elements of the processes that contribute to contamination with some simple measures of the potential for contamination (Girardin et al.,1999). This report considers the information requirements to develop an agroecosystem indicator that assesses the risk that pathogens from one or more agricultural operations may contaminate water resources. It consists of three major sections: the first is a review of the literature that identifies the potential sources of pathogens on agricultural operations, and the relative importance of those sources in leading to degradation of water resources, the second part deals with the activities underway in organizations other than agricultural departments in Canada, and in jurisdictions outside of Canada, the third section considers elements and critical control points from the literature review, and comments on existing or planned indicator frameworks-for other AEIs that could contribute to a pathogen AEI.