The Agricultural Catchments Programme is based on a partnership with farmers and other stakeholders and aims to support productive agriculture while protecting water quality. The programme integrates advice and research and operates in small river catchments of 500 to 2,900ha. The programme, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and run by Teagasc, is implemented by a team of researchers, advisers and technicians working closely with farmers. The programme advisers provide an intensive advisory and planning service to farmers in the catchments with support from their colleagues locally and nationally. Their purpose is to improve the profitability of the farms and help the farmers to implement the Good Agricultural Practice measures contained in the National Action Programme. The programme’s research and technical staff work with the farmers and advisers to evaluate the environmental and economic effects of the measures.

Recent Submissions

  • Phosphorus management on Irish dairy farms post controls introduced under the EU Nitrates Directive

    Buckley, Cathal; Wall, David P.; Moran, Brian; O'Neill, Stephen; Murphy, Paul N. C. (Elsevier, 2015-11-08)
    The Republic of Ireland was one of a minority of EU member states to include direct controls on chemical phosphorus (P) fertilisers in its EU Nitrates Directive National Action Plan, first introduced in 2006. This study estimates farm gate phosphorus balances and use efficiencies across 150 specialist dairy farms over the seven year period since these controls were introduced (2006–2012) using nationally representative data. Results indicate that P balances declined by 50% over the study period from 11.9 in 2006 to 6.0 kg ha− 1 in 2012. This decline was driven by a reduction in chemical fertiliser imports of 6.5 kg ha− 1. This is equivalent to a reduction of 281 kg of P and represents a cost saving of €812 per annum across the average farm. Phosphorus use efficiency also improved over the period from 60% in 2006 to 78% in 2012, peaking in 2011 at 88.3%. This was achieved while increasing milk solids output per hectare and per cow. Results of a random effects panel data model indicated that P balance and use efficiency are significantly influenced by factors such as fertiliser prices, stocking rates, land use potential, use of milk recording technology, contact with extension services and rainfall patterns.
  • Developing the EU Farm Accountancy Data Network to derive indicators around the sustainable use of nitrogen and phosphorus at farm level.

    Buckley, Cathal; Wall, David P; Moran, Brian; Murphy, Paul N.C. (Springer, 2015-07)
    This study uses a national farm survey which is part of the European Union (EU) Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) to develop environmental sustainability indicators in the use of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) across a range of farm systems in the Republic of Ireland. Farm level micro data were used to calculate all inputs and outputs of N and P that cross the farm gate and to derive balances (kg ha-1) and overall use efficiencies across 827 farms in 2012. The sample is populated weighted to represents 71,480 farms nationally. Results indicated an average N balance of 71.0 kg ha-1 and use efficiency of 36.7% across the nationally representative sample. Nitrogen balances were between two and four times higher across specialist dairy farms compared to livestock rearing and specialist tillage systems. Nitrogen use efficiency was generally lowest across milk producing systems compared to livestock rearing and tillage systems. Phosphorus balance and use efficiency averaged 4.7 kg ha-1 and 79.6% respectively across the sample. Specialist tillage and dairying farms had higher average P balances compared to other livestock based systems. The approach developed in this analysis will form the benchmark for temporal analysis across these indicators for future nutrient balance and efficiency trends and could assist other members of the EU FADN to develop similar nationally representative indicators.
  • Summer Rains and Dry Seasons in the Upper Blue Nile Basin: The Predictability of Half a Century of Past and Future Spatiotemporal Patterns

    Mellander, Per-Erik; Gebrehiwot, Solomon G.; Gardenas, Annemieka I.; Bewket, Woldeamlak; Bishop, Kevin (PLOS, 2013-07-15)
    During the last 100 years the Ethiopian upper Blue Nile Basin (BNB) has undergone major changes in land use, and is now potentially facing changes in climate. Rainfall over BNB supplies over two-thirds of the water to the Nile and supports a large local population living mainly on subsistence agriculture. Regional food security is sensitive to both the amount and timing of rain and is already an important political challenge that will be further complicated if scenarios of climate change are realized. In this study a simple spatial model of the timing and duration of summer rains (Kiremt) and dry season (Bega), and annual rain over the upper BNB was established from observed data between 1952 and 2004. The model was used to explore potential impacts of climate change on these rains, using a down-scaled ECHAM5/MP1-OM scenario between 2050 and 2100. Over the observed period the amount, onset and duration of Kiremt rains and rain-free Bega days have exhibited a consistent spatial pattern. The spatially averaged annual rainfall was 1490 mm of which 93% was Kiremt rain. The average Kiremt rain and number of rainy days was higher in the southwest (322 days) and decreased towards the north (136 days). Under the 2050–2100 scenario, the annual mean rainfall is predicted to increase by 6% and maintain the same spatial pattern as in the past. A larger change in annual rainfall is expected in the southwest (ca. +130 mm) with a gradually smaller change towards the north (ca. +70 mm). Results highlight the need to account for the characteristic spatiotemporal zonation when planning water management and climate adaptation within the upper BNB. The presented simple spatial resolved models of the presence of Kiremt and annual total rainfall could be used as a baseline for such long-term planning.
  • Ireland’s Rural Environment: Research Highlights from Johnstown Castle

    O hUallachain, Daire; Fenton, Owen; Foley, M (Teagasc, 2013)
    This booklet gives a flavour of the current research in Teagasc Johnstown Castle Research Centre and introduces you to the staff involved. It covers the areas of Nutrient Efficiency, Gaseous emissions, Agricultural Ecology, Soils and Water quality.
  • The potential to reduce the risk of diffuse pollution from agriculture while improving economic performance at farm level

    Buckley, Cathal; Carney, Patricia (Elsevier, 2013-01)
    Within the constraints of the EU Nitrates and Water Framework Directives, controlling and managing nutrient transfers to water from excessive nutrient use on agricultural land is a significant environmental policy challenge. This paper assesses whether there is room to reduce inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser applications and imported feeds by exploring the extent to which application rates may have exceeded optimum levels using data envelopment analysis methodology. The investigation concentrates on specialist dairy and tillage farms in the Republic of Ireland stratified by land use potential as these agricultural systems are the most intensive and may pose the greatest risk in terms of managing nutrient transfers from agricultural land to water bodies. Results demonstrate inefficiency in the utilisation of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers across these systems. Second stage regression analysis indicates significant return to efficiency from agricultural education. Average over application of chemical fertilizers ranged from 22.8 to 32.8 kg N ha-1 and 2.9 to 3.51 kg P ha-1 in 2008 which research has shown is at least similar and greater than losses to leaching and runoff for N and P, respectively, from similar intensive agricultural land uses. Potential cost savings on chemical fertilisers across all systems on average ranged from €38.9 ha-1 to €48.5 ha-1. Additionally, potential cost reductions on imported feeds of €65 to €84 per livestock were indicated for dairy farms versus efficient cohort benchmark farms. Average excess of imported feedstuffs equated to 5.82-7.44 kg LU-1 of N and 0.92-1.17 kg LU-1 of P. Such reductions have the potential to deliver a double dividend by reducing the risk of diffuse nutrient losses from agricultural land while improving economic margins at farm level.
  • Intra-national importation of pig and poultry manure: acceptability under EU Nitrates Directive constraints

    Buckley, Cathal; Fealy, Reamonn (Institute of Agricultural Management, 2012-07)
    Matching the agronomic limits of manure spread lands from housed animal units is an international concern where receiving lands can become over supplied and lead to water quality problems where eutrophication is a risk. Across the EU, this means establishing policy to export manures to off-farm spread lands under tight regulation. Transitional arrangements across, for example, the Republic of Ireland between 2006-2010 allowed pig and poultry manures to be spread subject only to the nitrogen amendment limits of the EU Nitrates Directive and not the phosphorus limits. From 2013 this arrangement is to be phased out, and pig and poultry producers have consequently expressed concerns about the availability of recipient spread lands for these manures. Using a national farm survey and a multinomial model this paper investigates the willingness of the farming population to import these manures. Results indicate that between 9 and 15 per cent of farmers nationally would be willing to pay to import these manures; a further 17-28 per cent would import if offered on a free of charge basis. Demand is strongest among arable farmers, younger farmer cohorts and those of larger farm size with greater expenditure on chemical fertilisers per hectare and who are not restricted by a Nitrates Directive derogation. The nature of this demand could assist in achieving environmental goals under the EU Nitrates and Water Framework Directives.
  • What are the financial returns to agriculture from a common property resource? A case study of Irish commonage

    Buckley, Cathal; van Rensburg, Tom M.; Hynes, Stephen (Institute of Agricultural Management, 2008-07)
    Commonage in the Republic of Ireland has traditionally been used for agricultural activity, mainly livestock grazing. In recent times due to its prevailing common property characteristics and upland landscape, this resource is increasingly attracting the interest of recreational enthusiasts. However, the potential opportunity costs associated with recreation – namely the commercial value of sheep and cattle grazing on commonage remains to be investigated. This paper aims to fill this gap in the literature by analysing the agricultural returns from livestock rearing enterprises on commonage land for a sample of farmers in the west of Ireland. Results indicate that stocking rates are three times higher on privately owned land compared to shared commonage. Over 80 per cent of the farms in the sample had a gross margin under €20,000. In total, 96 per cent of gross margin was found to be attributable to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments; with area based payments twice as important as direct livestock subsidies.
  • Implementation of the EU Nitrates Directive in the Republic of Ireland — A view from the farm

    Buckley, Cathal (Elsevier, 2012-06)
    This paper employs Q methodology to investigate farmer opinions of the operation of the EU Nitrates Directive regulations after the first 4 year National Action Programme phase and explores the level of acceptance and refutation of measures from the view of farmers own knowledge and experience of land stewardship. Results indicate 4 main opinion groups. A “Constrained Productionists”group remain unconvinced about the appropriateness of certain measures from a farm management, environmental and water quality perspective. A second group “Concerned Practitioners” share some of these concerned but are generally more positive regarding other farm management and environmental benefits accruing from the regulations. A third group, “Benefit Accepters”, indicated quite an environmentalist position and are generally very positive towards regulation implementation and associated environmental and farm management benefits. The final group “Regulation Unaffected” have some concerns but are mostly unaffected by the regulations. Results suggest there is a growing acceptance among some farmers of environmental benefits accruing from the regulation but scepticism remains around the validity of certain measures, especially, in the area of temporal farm practices.
  • Supply of an ecosystem service—Farmers’ willingness to adopt riparian buffer zones in agricultural catchments

    Buckley, Cathal; Hynes, Stephen; Mechan, Sarah (Elsevier, 2012-12)
    In the European Union, mitigation measures to abate diffuse pollution from agricultural land are implemented under the direction of the EU Nitrates and Water Framework Directives. As these measures are implemented in national policies, a review process will look at the efficacy of the measures with a view to recommending further measures as necessary and following scientific and stakeholder consultation. Riparian buffer zones, beyond those zones used as mandatory set back distances for fertiliser and organic manure spreading, have been used as filters in some countries to attenuate nutrient rich runoff and may be proposed as supplementary measures elsewhere. Notwithstanding the ongoing research on the physio-chemical efficiency of riparian buffer zones, this study examined the willingness of farmers to adopt such features on agricultural land. The sample size was 247 farmers in 12 catchments (approximately 4-12km2) in the Republic of Ireland. The survey was based on a proposal to install a 10 metre deep riparian buffer zone on a five year scheme and the analysis was based on principal components analysis, contingent valuation methodology and a Generalized Tobit Interval model. Results from this analysis indicated that famers’ willingness to supply a riparian buffer zone depended on a mix of economic, attitudinal and farm structural factors. A total of 53% of the sample indicated a negative preference for provision. Principle constraints to adoption include interference with production, nuisance effects and loss of production in small field systems. Of those willing to engage with supply, the mean willingness to accept based cost of provision for a 10 metre riparian buffer zone was estimated to be €1513 ha-1 per annum equivalent to €1.51 per linear metre of riparian area.
  • Walking in the Irish countryside – Landowner preferences and attitudes to improved public access provision

    Buckley, Cathal; Hynes, Stephen; van Rensburg, Tom M.; Doherty, Edel (Taylor & Francis, 2009-11-18)
    This paper explores the attitudes of landowners across Ireland to the wider provision of public access for recreational walking using a multinomial logit model. The study also investigates the level of compensation required to improve the supply of this public good. Results indicate that 51% of landowners are not willing to provide access (non providers), 21% are willing to provide access free of charge (free providers) and 28% seek compensation (willing providers). Our findings indicate that participation by landowners in a proposed public access scheme is influenced by landowners’ experience with walkers, farm type, farm insurance costs, household demographics, regional variations, opportunity cost of land and participation in other agri-environment schemes. Mean willingness to accept for landowners willing to facilitate improved public access for walking was found to be €0.27 per metre of walkway.
  • Public access for walking in the Irish countryside – Can supply be improved?

    Buckley, Cathal; Hynes, Stephen; van Rensburg, Tom M. (School of Biology and Environmental Science at University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2008-06-30)
    Public access to the Irish countryside for walking and recreation generally is a contentious issue. Increased affluence, mobility and changing values have brought about increased demands with respect to recreation in the countryside. There is also a greater emphasis on consumption demands for goods and services in rural areas. However, provision of a walking product has not been without problems in Ireland. This paper focuses on how public access provision for recreational walking might be enhanced by exploring the situation and precedent in a cross section of European and other developed nations and by examining the concerns of landowners especially with regard to public liability. Supply side factors affecting public access provision are examined in an economic context and a discussion is offered on how the supply might be improved. In the absence of compulsion through legislation, which seems unlikely in an Irish context, this paper contends that the supply of public access is dependent on factors such as cost of provision, potential monetary incentives and landowner preferences. Finally, a change to the Occupiers Liability Act to a definitive enter at your own risk situation would help dissipate liability concerns.
  • Recreational demand for farm commonage in Ireland: A contingent valuation assessment

    Buckley, Cathal; van Rensburg, Tom M.; Hynes, Stephen (Elsevier Inc., 2009-07)
    This paper measures willingness to pay (WTP) for public access and trail improvements on commonage farmland for recreational walking in upland and lowland areas of Connemara region in the West of Ireland using the Contingent Valuation Method (CVM). Common to both upland and lowland commonage sites was the much higher ranking for infrastructural features by those WTP for scenario implementation compared to those preferring the status quo. Results for those expressing a positive WTP reveal a median willingness to pay (MWTP) for formal access with improved trail infrastructure of €12.22 for the lowlands compared with €9.08 for the uplands.
  • Improving Public Access to the Irish Countryside for Walking – Investigation of Supply and Demand Side Factors

    Buckley, Cathal (2009-07-01)
    Increased interest and demand for land based recreational amenities has seen the rise of conflict between landowners and recreationalists (particularly walkers) in the Republic of Ireland. A right of access to the countryside for recreation prevalent across other developed nations does not apply. Stakeholders have tabled various proposals to address this situation ranging from a right to roam across the countryside to a compensation payment to landowners for recreational access. Whilst policy makers are aware of the economic opportunities associated with open-air outdoor recreation activities, rational public decision making requires that economic benefits and costs should be clearly identified and valued to justify any policy intervention. To-date no such evaluation has been undertaken. This thesis explores supply and demand side factors that influence public access provision to the Irish countryside for recreational walking. Firstly, contingent valuation was used to measure the willingness to pay of consumers for improved public access and trail improvements on commonage farmland based on two case study sites in the Connemara region. Secondly, a national representative survey was used to explore the attitudes of landowners across the Republic of Ireland to the wider provision of public access for recreational walking on farmland, including the potential opportunity costs to agriculture as well as the level of compensation demanded by landowners. This thesis argues that based on derived welfare estimates there is significant scope for policy interventions to improve public access to the countryside in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Variations in travel time for N loading to groundwaters in four case studies in Ireland:Implications for policy makers and regulators

    Fenton, Owen; Coxon, Catherine E.; Haria, Atul H.; Horan, Brendan; Humphreys, James; Johnson, Paul; Murphy, Paul; Necpalova, Magdalena; Premrov, Alina; Richards, Karl G. (School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2009)
    Mitigation measures to protect waterbodies must be implemented by 2012 to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. The efficacy of these measures will be assessed in 2015. Whilst diffuse N pathways between source and receptor are generally long and complex, EU legislation does not account for differences in hydrological travel time distributions that may result in different water quality response times. The “lag time” between introducing mitigation measures and first improvements in water quality is likely to be different in different catchments; a process that should be considered by policy makers and catchment managers. Many examples of travel time variations have been quoted in the literature but no Irish specific examples are available. Lag times based on initial nutrient breakthrough at four contrasting sites were estimated to a receptor 500 m away from a source. Vertical travel times were estimated using a combination of depth of infiltration calculations based on effective rainfall and subsoil physical parameters and existing hydrological tracer data. Horizontal travel times were estimated using a combination of Darcian linear velocity calculations and existing tracer migration data. Total travel times, assuming no biogeochemical processes, ranged from months to decades between the contrasting sites; the shortest times occurred under thin soil/subsoil on karst limestone and the longest times through thick low permeability soils/subsoils over poorly productive aquifers. Policy makers should consider hydrological lag times when assessing the efficacy of mitigation measures introduced under the Water Framework Directive. This lag time reflects complete flushing of a particular nutrient from source to receptor. Further research is required to assess the potential mitigation of nitrate through denitrification along the pathway from source to receptor.
  • Developing an independent, generic, phosphorus modelling component for use with grid-oriented, physically-based distributed catchment models

    Nasr, Ahmed Elssidig; Taskinen, Antti; Bruen, Michael (2012-07-02)
    Grid-oriented, physically based catchment models calculate fields of various hydrological variables relevant to phosphorous detachment and transport. These include (i) for surface transport: overland flow depth and flow in the coordinate directions, sediment load, and sediment concentration and (ii) for subsurface transport: soil moisture and hydraulic head at various depths in the soil. These variables can be considered as decoupled from any chemical phosphorous model since phosphorous concentrations, either as dissolved or particulate, do not influence the model calculations of the hydrological fields. Thus the phosphorous concentration calculations can be carried out independently from and after the hydrological calculations. This makes it possible to produce a separate phosphorous modelling component which takes as input the hydrological fields produced by the catchment model and which calculates, at each step the phosphorous concentrations in the flows. This paper summarise the equations and structure of Grid Oriented Phosphorous Component (GOPC) developed for simulating the phosphorus concentrations and loads using the outputs of a fully distributed physical based hydrological model. Also the GOPC performance is illustrated by am example of an experimental catchment (created by the author) subjected to some ideal conditions.
  • The significance of the differences in soil phosphorus representation and transport procedures in the SWAT and HSPF models and a comparison of their performance in estimating phosphorus loss from an agriculture catchment in Ireland

    Nasr, Ahmed Elssidig; Bruen, Michael; Moles, Richard; Byrne, Paul; O'Regan, Bernadette (TWRI, 2012-07-02)
    Phosphorus transported from agriculture land has been identified as a major source of water pollution in a large number of Irish catchments. Models of this process are required in order to design and assess management measures. This paper reports on the comparison and assessment of two of the most promising physically-based distributed models, SWAT and HSPF, with particular emphasis on their suitability for Irish conditions. The representation of the overall soil phosphorus cycle is similar in both models but there is a significant difference in the level of detail in describing the chemical and biochemical processes in each model. Also there are differences in modeling the mechanisms by which phosphorus is removed from the soil column and either transported in dissolved form with the runoff water or in particulate form attached to eroded or detached sediment. These differences could have a significant influence on performance when using either of the models to simulate phosphorus loss from any catchment. Both models are applied to estimating the phosphorus concentration at the outlet of the Clarianna catchment in north Tiperrary (Ireland). This catchment is small (23km2) and the landuse is mainly pasture on grey brown podozilic soils. The results of model calibration are presented along with an assessment of the usefulness of the model outputs as a water quality management tool.
  • Eutrophication from agricultural sources : a comparison of SWAT, HSPF and SHETRAN/GOPC phosphorus models for three Irish catchments : executive summary

    Nasr, Ahmed Elssidig; Bruen, Michael (University College Dublin. Centre for Water Resources Research, 2012-07-02)
  • Eutrophication from agricultural sources : a comparison of SWAT, HSPF and SHETRAN/GOPC phosphorus models for three Irish catchments - Final Report

    Nasr, Ahmed Elssidig; Bruen, Michael (University College Dublin. Centre for Water Resources Research, 2012-07-02)
    Phosphorous has been implicated as the primary cause of the deterioration of surface water quality in Ireland. Extensive water quality surveys revealed that diffuse sources (runoff and subsurface flows) from agricultural land are the major contributors of phosphorus to surface waters. The mechanism of phosphorus movement from land to water can be described by a number of mathematical models that vary in modelling approaches and scales (plot, field and catchment). In this work three efficient mathematical models of diffuse source pollution in general and of phosphorus in particular have been applied, for the first time, to three Irish catchments (Clarianna (Co. Tipperary), Dripsey (Co. Cork) and Oona (Co. Tyrone)) in order to explore the suitability of these models in Irish conditions for future use in implementing the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). The models are: (i) Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), (ii) Hydrological Simulation Programme FORTRAN (HSPF) and (iii) Système Hydrologique Européen TRAnsport (SHETRAN). The first two can model phosphorus production directly while the third can calculate fields of various hydrological variables relevant to phosphorous modelling. For the latter, a generic phosphorus modelling component called Grid Oriented Phosphorus Component (GOPC) has been developed here to model the phosphorus detachment and transport by taking as inputs the hydrological fields produced by any physically-based distributed catchment model such as SHETRAN. The three models have been successfully transferred to Irish conditions and this required the build up of a database consisting of topographic, land use and soil maps, water quality and weather data. The models application involved two stages. In the first stage, hydrological variables (evaporation, runoff, etc.) within the catchment domains were simulated by each of the three models. The second stage uses the outputs of the first in order to estimate the amount of phosphorus loss from the catchments. The SWAT, HSPF, and SHETRAN/GOPC models have been calibrated and then compared and assessed on the basis of their ability to fit and reproduce the flow discharges and phosphorus loads and concentrations for the three test catchments. The findings from the flow and phosphorus calibrations of SWAT and HSPF models were generally consistence with what have been found from previous studies outside Ireland. However, the simple structure of the first order kinetics method used for phosphorus modelling in HSPF has generally impeded the freedom of the phosphorus calibration which was noticeably difficult. Application of the SHETRAN model to the study catchments has illustrated the importance of carefully assigning the parameters related to the soil water modelling, particularly the parameters of the van Genuchten soil-hydraulic function, in order to obtain the best results. The GOPC performance has been found to depend significantly on the SHETRAN model which provided the required hydrological variables. The flow comparison has showed that in the three catchments, the HSPF model was the best in simulating the mean daily discharges. Moreover discharge simulation from an independent validation run of the three models in the Oona catchment have also demonstrated the superiority of the hydrological component of HSPF. However, the best calibration results for daily total phosphorus loads in the study catchments has been achieved by the SWAT model. However from the validation in the Oona catchment the HSPF has been found better than the other two models, SWAT and GOPC, in simulating the total phosphorus loads. Generally the results of total phosphorus loads from the GOPC in the three catchments were quite good and this model has reproduced some observed values better than the best model, SWAT. Simulation of the daily dissolved reactive phosphorus loads by the three models in the study catchments have showed big differences between the simulated and the observed data in most of the cases. Results for mean daily total and dissolved reactive phosphorus concentrations from the three models were not as good as the results for the loads in the three catchments.
  • Physically-based, distributed, catchment modelling for estimating sediment and phosphorus loads to rivers and lakes : issues of model complexity, spatial and temporal scales and data requirements

    Nasr, Ahmed Elssidig; Bruen, Michael; Jordan, Philip; Moles, Richard; Kiely, Gerard; Byrne, Paul (Office of Public Works, 2012-07-02)
  • Modelling phosphorus loss from agricultural catchments : a comparison of the performance of SWAT, HSPF and SHETRAN for the Clarianna catchment

    Nasr, Ahmed Elssidig; Bruen, Michael; Parkin, Geoff; Birkinshaw, Steve; Moles, Richard; Byrne, Paul (IWA Publishing, 2012-07-02)
    Much research in Europe at present has been directed at generating and assessing modelling tools for use in catchment management, driven by the requirements and schedule of the Water Framework Directive. A logical first step is to assess the suitability of existing models for this task so that any resources used in generating new models can be targeted at actual modelling needs. Crucial questions, relating to the model structure and complexity and spatial and temporal scales required must also be addressed. This paper reports a comparison of the performance and suitability of three "off-the-shelf" distributed catchment models, each with a different level of complexity, applied to modelling phosphorous losses from the Clarianna catchment in Ireland. In this paper, the performance of three such models (SWAT, HSPF and SHETRAN/GOPC) is compared, both in estimating discharges and phosphorous loads in the Clarianna catchment. The flow comparison has showed that the HSPF model was the best in simulating the mean daily discharges. However, the best calibration results for daily total phosphorus loads in the study catchment has been achieved by the SWAT model.

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