Pesticides in streams of the western Lake Michigan drainages, Wisconsin and Michigan, 1993-95

Fact Sheet 107-96




During 1993-95, water samples were collected at nine sites on eight streams in the Western Lake Michigan Drainages to attempt to determine pesticide concentrations. The sampling effort was part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water- Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Pesticides analyzed for were 58 herbicides and 30 insecticides. Pesticides are used extensively in the study area; application of herbicides to corn and soybeans accounts for most of the use. Herbicides were detected more frequently and generally at higher concentrations than insecticides. The herbicide atrazine is applied to more acreage in Wisconsin than all other pesticides and was detected in 142 of 143 samples. The herbicides simazine, metolachlor, cyanazine, prometon, and alachlor were detected in more than half of the samples. The presence of these compounds in the sampled streams, is related to agricultural use. Two streams in forested basins in the northern part of the study area were sampled and found to contain low concentrations of atrazine. Atmospheric deposition is the likely source; atrazine has been detected in rain fall in northeastern Wisconsin. Herbicide concentrations in agricultural basins were highest in samples collected during storm runoff following application. Concentrations decreased over the growing season as herbicides broke down and increased ground cover reduced runoff. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) drinking-water standard for atrazine was exceeded in eight samples, and the standard for alachlor was exceeded in two samples. All exceedances occurred during brief periods of high streamflow in June and July at two streams that drain primarily agricultural basins. Herbicide data for the Western Lake Drainages and other NAWQA study units indicate that concentrations in streams are as much as two orders of magnitude higher in areas where agricultural land contains a high percentage of row crops especially corn and soybeans than in areas where grazing, hay production, and other less herbicide-intensive crops are raised.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Pesticides in streams of the western Lake Michigan drainages, Wisconsin and Michigan, 1993-95
Series title:
Fact Sheet
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Wisconsin Water Science Center
4 p.
United States
Michigan, Wisconsin
Other Geospatial:
Lake Michigan
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):