An Integrated Model for Simulating Nitrogen Trading in an Agricultural Catchment with Complex Hydrology

Published: 2013

Authors: Tim Cox , John Rutherford , Suzi Kerr, Duncan Smeaton

Nitrogen loads to several New Zealand lakes are dominated by nonpoint runoff from pastoral farmland which adversely affects lake water quality.

A "cap and trade" scheme is being considered to help meet targets set for nitrogen loads to Lake Rotorua, and a numerical model, NTRADER, has been developed to simulate and compare alternative schemes. NTRADER models both the geophysics of nitrogen generation and transport, including groundwater lag times, and the economics of "cap and trade" schemes.

It integrates the output from several existing models, including a farm-scale nitrogen leaching and abatement model, a farm-scale management economic model, and a catchment-scale nitrogen transport model.

This paper details modeling methods and compares possible trading program design features for the Lake Rotorua catchment. Model simulations demonstrate how a cap and trade program could be used to effectively achieve challenging environmental goals in the targeted catchment. However, results also show that, due to complex hydrogeology, satisfactory environmental outcomes may be not achieved unless groundwater lag times are incorporated into the regulatory scheme. One way to do this, as demonstrated here, would be to explicitly include lag times in the cap and trade program.

The utility of the model is further demonstrated by quantifying relative differences in abatement costs across potential regulatory schemes.

Citation

Cox, T. J., J.C. Rutherford, Suzi C. Kerr, D.C. Smeaton, C.C. Palliser. 2013. “An Integrated Model for Simulating Nitrogen Trading in an Agricultural Catchment with Complex Hydrology, Journal of Environmental Management 127, pp. 268-77 (subscription only).