Data for: Hydraulic Shortcuts Increase the Connectivity of Arable Land Areas to Surface Waters

Surface runoff represents a major pathway for pesticide transport from agricultural areas to surface waters. The influence of man-made structures (e.g. roads, hedges, ditches) on surface runoff connectivity has been shown in various studies. In Switzerland, so-called hydraulic shortcuts (e.g. inlets and maintenance manholes of road or field storm drainage systems) have been shown to influence surface runoff connectivity and related pesticide transport. Their occurrence, and their influence on surface runoff and pesticide connectivity have however not been studied systematically.

To address that deficit, we randomly selected 20 study areas (average size = 3.5 km2) throughout the Swiss plateau, representing arable cropping systems. We assessed shortcut occurrence in these study areas using three mapping methods: field mapping, drainage plans, and high-resolution aerial images. Surface runoff connectivity in the study areas was analysed using a 2x2 m digital elevation model and a multiple-flow algorithm. Parameter uncertainty affecting this analysis was addressed by a Monte Carlo simulation. With our approach, agricultural areas were divided into areas that are either directly connected to surface waters, indirectly (i.e. via hydraulic shortcuts), or not connected at all. Finally, the results of this connectivity analysis were scaled up to the national level using a regression model based on topographic descriptors and were then compared to an existing national connectivity model.

Inlets of the road storm drainage system were identified as the main shortcuts. On average, we found 0.84 inlets and a total of 2.0 manholes per hectare of agricultural land. In the study catchments between 43 and 74 % of the agricultural area is connected to surface waters via hydraulic shortcuts. On the national level, this fraction is similar and lies between 47 and 60 %. Considering our empirical observations led to shifts in estimated fractions of connected areas compared to the previous connectivity model. The differences were most pronounced in flat areas of river valleys.

These numbers suggest that transport through hydraulic shortcuts is an important pesticide flow path in a landscape where many engineered structures exist to drain excess water from fields and roads. However, this transport process is currently not considered in Swiss pesticide legislation and authorisation. Therefore, current regulations may fall short to address the full extent of the pesticide problem. However, independent measurements of water flow and pesticide transport to quantify the contribution of shortcuts and validating the model results are lacking. Overall, the findings highlight the relevance of better understanding the connectivity between fields and receiving waters and the underlying factors and physical structures in the landscape.

Dataset extent

Data and Resources


This Data Package

Schönenberger, U., & Stamm, C. (2021). Data for: Hydraulic Shortcuts Increase the Connectivity of Arable Land Areas to Surface Waters (Version 1.0) [Data set]. Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology.

The associated article

Schönenberger, U., & Stamm, C. (2021). Hydraulic shortcuts increase the connectivity of arable land areas to surface waters. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 25(4), 1727–1746.


Open Data Open Data
Long-term data Long-term data
  • Schönenberger, Urs
  • Stamm, Christian
Keywords pesticides,surface runoff,overland flow,Pesticide transport,infrastructure mapping,roads,hydraulic shortcuts,shortcuts,inlets,drainage,agriculture,arable land,Switzerland,storm drainage
  • agricultural area
  • agricultural drainage
  • catchment
  • hydraulic shortcuts
  • storm drainage
  • watershed
  • 2017-08 TO 2018-05
Geographic Name(s)
  • Boncourt
  • Buchs
  • Böttstein
  • Clarmont
  • Courroux
  • Fleurier
  • Hochdorf
  • Illighausen
  • Lommiswil
  • Meyrin
  • Molondin
  • Müswangen
  • Nürensdorf
  • Oberneunforn
  • Romont
  • Rüti bei Riggisberg
  • Suchy
  • Truttikon
  • Ueken
  • Vufflens-la-Ville
Review Level none
Curator Schoenenberger, Urs
DOI 10.25678/0003J3