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Since 1991, the U.S. Geological Survey has been conducting the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program to determine the quality of the Nation's water resources. In an effort to obtain a better understanding of why pesticides are found in shallow ground water on a national scale, a set of factors likely to affect the fate and transport of two herbicides in the subsurface were examined. Atrazine and metolachlor were selected for this discussion because they were among the most frequently detected pesticides in ground water during the first phase of the NAWQA Program (1993 to 1995), and each was the most frequently detected compound in its chemical class (triazines and acetanilides, respectively). The factors that most strongly correlated with the frequencies of atrazine detection in shallow ground-water networks were those that provided either: (1) an indication of the potential susceptibility of ground water to atrazine contamination, or (2) an indication of relative ground-water age. The factors most closely related to the frequencies of metolachlor detection in ground water, however, were those that estimated or indicated the intensity of the agricultural use of metolachlor. This difference is probably the result of detailed use estimates for these compounds being available only for agricultural settings. While atrazine use is relatively extensive in nonagricultural settings, in addition to its widespread agricultural use, metolachlor is used almost exclusively for agricultural purposes. As a result, estimates of agricultural applications provide a less reliable indication of total chemical use for atrazine than for metelachlor. A multivariate analysis demonstrated that the factors of interest explained about 50 percent of the variance in atrazine and metolachlor detection frequencies among the NAWQA land-use studies examined. The inclusion of other factors related to pesticide fate and transport in ground water, or improvements in the quality and accuracy of the data employed for the factors examined, may help explain more of the remaining variance in the frequencies of atrazine and metolachlor detection.
Additional Publication Details
Atrazine and metolachlor occurrence in shallow ground water of the United States, 1993 to 1995: Relations to explanatory factors
Journal of the American Water Resources Association