Visualising Pathogen & Environmental Risk

The original ViPER project used a participatory approach to bring together a range of stakeholders (regulators, catchment managers, scientists and farm networks) to promote engagement, deliberation and joint decision-making. Through a structured process of knowledge exchange the project team developed a freely-available prototype decision support tool (DST) called ViPER. The ViPER DST provides a user-friendly interface and allows end-users without specific modelling skills or knowledge of a modelling system to take advantage of existing NERC science and modelling capability to understand how, when and where E. coli risks accumulate on agricultural land. However, in its current form, ViPER is unable to evaluate what proportion of that E. coli source on agricultural land will actually end up in rivers and streams following rainfall.


In response, the aim of ViPER II is to now transition our prototype DST, which maps E. coli risks at the field, farm and catchment scale, into a user-ready toolkit for providing on-farm advice and guidance in the real world. To do this we will combine the ViPER DST with another freely-available NERC-funded hydrological risk-mapping tool called SCIMAP. SCIMAP was designed to identify the origins of sediment and nutrient pollutants in the landscape and importantly, it maps how runoff can transfer sediment and nutrients across the soil surface and into watercourses. However, SCIMAP currently does not map microbial risks in the landscape because, unlike sediment and nutrients, bacteria such as E. coli accommodate a complex life-cycle and will die-off over time. By contrast, ViPER is able to account for the die-off of E. coli but lacks the capacity to predict E. coli transfer with runoff. An opportunity now exists to integrate two NERC-funded outputs (ViPER & SCIMAP) to deliver an innovative DST for mapping microbial pollution risks in catchment systems and to produce a DST that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. The resulting toolkit will provide added value both to land based assessment of microbial risks, and to the applied interests of environmental regulators and the water industry in the UK (& further afield). This represents the next critical step in ensuring that NERC funded models and data deliver real-world impact through innovative conversion of the underpinning evidence-base into a format that is widely accessible by relevant end-users.

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