The unregulated use of watersheds for agriculture negatively impacts the quality of river basins. In particular, the reduced quality of surface-waters, have been attributed to absence or poorly-decided riparian-buffer specifications in environmental laws. To demonstrate suitable buffer-width for protection of surface water, sediment and benthic fish populations, five riparian areas with different vegetation richness and buffer-width were selected within an organochlorine pesticide (OCP)-impacted watershed using the Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI) and multiple buffer analysis respectively. Mean OCP levels in surface water, sediment and fish sampled at each riparian stations showed site-specific differences with markedly higher levels of α-BHC, β-BHC, δ-BHC, p,p′-DDD and total pesticide residues at stations with least riparian cover. The principal component analysis further revealed more OCPs associating with sediment and fish from stations having smaller buffer-width and sparse riparian vegetation. Stations with wider buffer-width of at least 120 m provided greater protection to adjacent surface water and benthic fish populations. While this study recommends riparian buffer-widths for a typical tropical environment, further research which assesses other contaminant types in aquatic matrices adjacent to different riparian environments would be valuable and informative for regulatory guidance and strategic protection of ecosystem services.
Part of the book: River Basin Management