Spatially-Distributed Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Framework to Control Phosphorus from Agricultural Diffuse Pollution

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 27;10(8):e0130607. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130607. eCollection 2015.


Best management practices (BMPs) for agricultural diffuse pollution control are implemented at the field or small-watershed scale. However, the benefits of BMP implementation on receiving water quality at multiple spatial is an ongoing challenge. In this paper, we introduce an integrated approach that combines risk assessment (i.e., Phosphorus (P) index), model simulation techniques (Hydrological Simulation Program-FORTRAN), and a BMP placement tool at various scales to identify the optimal location for implementing multiple BMPs and estimate BMP effectiveness after implementation. A statistically significant decrease in nutrient discharge from watersheds is proposed to evaluate the effectiveness of BMPs, strategically targeted within watersheds. Specifically, we estimate two types of cost-effectiveness curves (total pollution reduction and proportion of watersheds improved) for four allocation approaches. Selection of a ''best approach" depends on the relative importance of the two types of effectiveness, which involves a value judgment based on the random/aggregated degree of BMP distribution among and within sub-watersheds. A statistical optimization framework is developed and evaluated in Chaohe River Watershed located in the northern mountain area of Beijing. Results show that BMP implementation significantly (p >0.001) decrease P loss from the watershed. Remedial strategies where BMPs were targeted to areas of high risk of P loss, deceased P loads compared with strategies where BMPs were randomly located across watersheds. Sensitivity analysis indicated that aggregated BMP placement in particular watershed is the most cost-effective scenario to decrease P loss. The optimization approach outlined in this paper is a spatially hierarchical method for targeting nonpoint source controls across a range of scales from field to farm, to watersheds, to regions. Further, model estimates showed targeting at multiple scales is necessary to optimize program efficiency. The integrated model approach described that selects and places BMPs at varying levels of implementation, provides a new theoretical basis and technical guidance for diffuse pollution management in agricultural watersheds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • China
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Phosphorus / chemistry
  • Risk Assessment
  • Water Quality
  • Water Supply


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phosphorus

Grant support

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.41271495) and the Sino-German Intergovernmental S & T Cooperation Projects (No. 2009DFA92440), Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education (20121108110006).