Water Quality and Evaluation of Pesticides in Lakes in the Ridge Citrus Region of Central Florida

Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5178
Prepared in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest Florida Water Management District
By:  and 



Water chemistry, including major inorganic constituents, nutrients, and pesticide compounds, was compared between seven lakes surrounded by citrus agriculture and an undeveloped lake on the Lake Wales Ridge (herein referred to as the Ridge) in central Florida. The region has been recognized for its vulnerability to the leaching of agricultural chemicals into the subsurface due to factors including soils, climate, and land use. About 40 percent of Florida's citrus cultivation occurs in 'ridge citrus' areas characterized by sandy well drained soils, with the remainder in 'flatwoods citrus' characterized by high water tables and poorly drained soils. The lakes on the Ridge are typically flow-through lakes that exchange water with adjacent and underlying aquifer systems. This study is the first to evaluate the occurrence of pesticides in lakes on the Ridge, and also represents one of the first monitoring efforts nationally to focus on regional-scale assessment of current-use pesticides in small- to moderate-sized lakes (5 to 393 acres). The samples were collected between December 2003 and September 2005. The lakes in citrus areas contained elevated concentrations of major inorganic constituents (including alkalinity, total dissolved solids, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfate), total nitrogen, pH, and pesticides compared to the undeveloped lake. Nitrate (as N) and total nitrogen concentrations were typically elevated in the citrus lakes, with maximum values of 4.70 and 5.19 mg/L (milligrams per liter), respectively. Elevated concentrations of potassium, nitrate, and other inorganic constituents in the citrus lakes likely reflect inputs from the surficial ground-water system that originated predominantly from agricultural fertilizers, soil amendments, and inorganic pesticides. A total of 20 pesticide compounds were detected in the lakes, of which 12 compounds exceeded the standardized reporting level of 0.06 ug/L (microgram per liter). Those most frequently detected above the 0.06-ug/L level were aldicarb sulfoxide, diuron, simazine degradates hydroxysimazine and didealkylatrazine (DDA), bromacil, norflurazon, and demethyl norflurazon which occurred at detection rates ranging from 25 to 86 percent of samples, respectively. Typically, pesticide concentrations in the lake samples were less than 1 microgram per liter. The number of targeted pesticide compounds detected per lake in the citrus areas ranged from 9 to 14 compared to 3 compounds detected at trace levels in the undeveloped lake. Consistent detections of parents and degradates in quarterly samples indicated the presence of pesticide compounds in the lakes many months or years (for example, bromacil) after their application, signaling the persistence of some pesticide compounds in the lakes and/or ground-water systems. Pesticide degradate concentrations frequently exceeded parent concentrations in the lakes. This study was the first in the Ridge citrus region to analyze for glyphosate - widely used in citrus - and its degradate aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), neither of which were detected, as well as a number of triazine degradates, including hydroxysimazine, which were detected. The lake pesticide concentrations did not exceed current Federal aquatic-life benchmarks, available for 10 of the 20 detected pesticide compounds. Limited occurrences of bromacil, diuron, or norflurazon concentrations were within about 10 to 90 percent of benchmark guidelines for acute effects on nonvascular aquatic plants in one or two of the lakes. The lake pesticide concentrations for several targeted pesticides were relatively high compared to corresponding national stream-water percentiles, which is consistent with this region's vulnerability for pesticide leaching into water resources. Several factors were evaluated to gain insight into the processes controlling pesticide transport and fate, and to assess their utility for estimating th

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Water Quality and Evaluation of Pesticides in Lakes in the Ridge Citrus Region of Central Florida
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2008-5178
DOI 10.3133/sir20085178
Edition -
Year Published 2009
Language ENGLISH
Contributing office(s) U.S. Geological Survey
Description vi, 55 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title U.S. Geological Survey
Time Range Start 2003-12-01
Time Range End 2005-09-30