Leary Weber Ditch Basin, Hancock County, Indiana, is one of seven first-order basins selected from across the United States as part of the Agricultural Chemicals: Source, Transport, and Fate study conducted by the National Water-Quality Assessment Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. The nationwide study was designed to increase the understanding of the links between the sources of water and agricultural chemicals (nutrients and pesticides) and the transport and fate of these chemicals through the environment.
Agricultural chemicals were detected in Leary Weber Ditch and in every associated hydrologic compartment sampled during 2003 and 2004. Pesticides were detected more frequently in samples collected from overland flow and from the ditch itself and less frequently in ground-water samples. The lowest concentrations of pesticides and nutrients were detected in samples of rain, soil water, and ground water. The highest concentrations of pesticides and nutrients were detected in samples of tile-drain water, overland flow, and water from Leary Weber Ditch. Samples collected from the tile drain, overland flow and Leary Weber Ditch soon after chemical applications to the fields and coincident with rainfall and increased streamflow had higher concentrations of pesticides and nutrients than samples collected a longer time after the chemicals were applied.
A mass-balance mixing analysis based on potassium concentrations indicated that tile drains are the primary contributor of water to Leary Weber Ditch, but overland flow is also an important contributor during periods of high-intensity rainfall. When maximum rainfall intensity was 0.5 inches per hour or lower, overland flow contributed about 10 percent and tile drains contributed about 90 percent of the flow to Leary Weber Ditch. When maximum rainfall intensity was 0.75 inches per hour or greater, overland flow contributed about 40 percent and tile drains contributed about 60 percent of the flow to the ditch. Ground-water flow to Leary Weber Ditch was negligible.
Tile drains are an important agricultural-chemical transport path to Leary Weber Ditch, based on the hydrologic contributions of overland flow and tile drains to the ditch. Overland flow is also an important agricultural-chemical transport pathway during high-intensity rainfall; however, storms with high-intensity rainfall are sporadic throughout the year. Tile drains and the soil water moving to the tile drains are the primary transport pathway for agricultural-chemical transport to Leary Weber Ditch during most storms as well as between storms.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Occurrence and Transport of Agricultural Chemicals in Leary Weber Ditch Basin, Hancock County, Indiana, 2003-04
Scientific Investigations Report
National Water Quality Assessment Program, Indiana Water Science Center