First flush behaviour in urban residential catchments

Alias, Noraliani Binti (2013) First flush behaviour in urban residential catchments. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The current state of knowledge in relation to first flush does not provide a clear understanding of the role of rainfall and catchment characteristics in influencing this phenomenon. This is attributed to the inconsistent findings from research studies due to the unsatisfactory selection of first flush indicators and how first flush is defined. The research study discussed in this thesis provides the outcomes of a comprehensive analysis on the influence of rainfall and catchment characteristics on first flush behaviour in residential catchments. Two sets of first flush indicators are introduced in this study. These indicators were selected such that they are representative in explaining in a systematic manner the characteristics associated with first flush.

Stormwater samples and rainfall-runoff data were collected and recorded from stormwater monitoring stations established at three urban catchments at Coomera Waters, Gold Coast, Australia. In addition, historical data were also used to support the data analysis. Three water quality parameters were analysed, namely, total suspended solids (TSS), total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN). The data analyses were primarily undertaken using multi criteria decision making methods, PROMETHEE and GAIA. Based on the data obtained, the pollutant load distribution curve (LV) was determined for the individual rainfall events and pollutant types. Accordingly, two sets of first flush indicators were derived from the curve, namely, cumulative load wash-off for every 10% of runoff volume interval (interval first flush indicators or LV) from the beginning of the event and the actual pollutant load wash-off during a 10% increment in runoff volume (section first flush indicators or P).

First flush behaviour showed significant variation with pollutant types. TSS and TP showed consistent first flush behaviour. However, the dissolved fraction of TN showed significant differences to TSS and TP first flush while particulate TN showed similarities. Wash-off of TSS, TP and particulate TN during the first 10% of the runoff volume showed no influence from corresponding rainfall intensity. This was attributed to the wash-off of weakly adhered solids on the catchment surface referred to as "short term pollutants" or "weakly adhered solids" load. However, wash-off after 10% of the runoff volume showed dependency on the rainfall intensity. This is attributed to the wash-off of strongly adhered solids being exposed when the weakly adhered solids diminish. The wash-off process was also found to depend on rainfall depth at the end part of the event as the strongly adhered solids are loosened due to impact of rainfall in the earlier part of the event. Events with high intensity rainfall bursts after 70% of the runoff volume did not demonstrate first flush behaviour. This suggests that rainfall pattern plays a critical role in the occurrence of first flush.

Rainfall intensity (with respect to the rest of the event) that produces 10% to 20% runoff volume play an important role in defining the magnitude of the first flush. Events can demonstrate high magnitude first flush when the rainfall intensity occurring between 10% and 20% of the runoff volume is comparatively high while low rainfall intensities during this period produces low magnitude first flush. For events with first flush, the phenomenon is clearly visible up to 40% of the runoff volume. This contradicts the common definition that first flush only exists, if for example, 80% of the pollutant mass is transported in the first 30% of runoff volume.

First flush behaviour for TN is different compared to TSS and TP. Apart from rainfall characteristics, the composition and the availability of TN on the catchment also play an important role in first flush. The analysis confirmed that events with low rainfall intensity can produce high magnitude first flush for the dissolved fraction of TN, while high rainfall intensity produce low dissolved TN first flush. This is attributed to the source limiting behaviour of dissolved TN wash-off where there is high wash-off during the initial part of a rainfall event irrespective of the intensity. However, for particulate TN, the influence of rainfall intensity on first flush characteristics is similar to TSS and TP. The data analysis also confirmed that first flush can occur as high magnitude first flush, low magnitude first flush or non existence of first flush.

Investigation of the influence of catchment characteristics on first flush found that the key factors that influence the phenomenon are the location of the pollutant source, spatial distribution of the pervious and impervious surfaces in the catchment, drainage network layout and slope of the catchment. This confirms that first flush phenomenon cannot be evaluated based on a single or a limited set of parameters as a number of catchment characteristics should be taken into account. Catchments where the pollutant source is located close to the outlet, a high fraction of road surfaces, short travel time to the outlet, with steep slopes can produce high wash-off load during the first 50% of the runoff volume.

Rainfall characteristics have a comparatively dominant impact on the wash-off process compared to the catchment characteristics. In addition, the pollutant characteristics also should be taken into account in designing stormwater treatment systems due to different wash-off behaviour. Analysis outcomes confirmed that there is a high TSS load during the first 20% of the runoff volume followed by TN which can extend up to 30% of the runoff volume. In contrast, high TP load can exist during the initial and at the end part of a rainfall event. This is related to the composition of TP available for the wash-off.

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ID Code: 63811
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Goonetilleke, Ashantha & Egodawatta, Prasanna
Keywords: catchment characteristics, first flush, rainfall characteristics, stormwater pollutant processes, stormwater pollution, stormwater quality, stormwater treatment
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 Oct 2013 05:07
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015 23:32

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