A regional assessment of non-point-source contamination of pesticide residues in ground water was made of the San Joaquin Valley, an intensively farmed and irrigated structural trough in central California. About 10% of the total pesticide use in the USA is in the San Joaquin Valley. Pesticides detected include atrazine, bromacil, 2.4-DP, diazinon, dibromochloropropane, 1,2-dibromoethane, dicamba, 1,2-dichloropropane, diuron, prometon, prometryn, propazine and simazine. All are soil applied except diazinon. Pesticide leaching is dependent on use patterns, soil texture, total organic carbon in soil, pesticide half-life and depth to water table. Leaching is enhanced by flood-irrigation methods except where the pesticide is foliar applied such as diazinon. Soils in the western San Joaquin Valley are fine grained and are derived primarily from marine shales of the Coast Ranges. Although shallow ground water is present, the fewest number of pesticides were detected in this region. The fine-grained soil inhibits pesticide leaching because of either low vertical permeability or high surface area; both enhance adsorption on to solid phases. Soils of the valley floor tend to be fine grained and have low vertical permeability. Soils in the eastern part of the valley are coarse grained with low total organic carbon and are derived from Sierra Nevada granites. Most pesticide leaching is in these alluvial soils, particularly in areas where depth to ground water is less than 30m. The areas currently most susceptible to pesticide leaching are eastern Fresno and Tulare Counties. Tritium in water molecules is an indicator of aquifer recharge with water of recent origin. Pesticide residues transported as dissolved species were not detected in non-tritiated water. Although pesticides were not detected in all samples containing high tritium, these samples are indicative of the presence of recharge water that interacted with agricultural soils. ?? 1992.