Stream-water chemistry, nutrients, and pesticides in Town Brook, a headwater stream of the Cannonsville Reservoir Watershed, Delaware County, New York, 1999

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2001-4050
Prepared in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York City Department of Environmental Protection
By:  and 



Stream-water chemistry was monitored from January 1 through December 31, 1999, in the Town Brook watershed (TBW) in Delaware County, N.Y. to provide a basis for future evaluation of the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in decreasing agricultural nutrient and pesticide leaching to receiving waters. Total runoff from the watershed during 1999 was 664 millimeters (mm). Annual nutrient export (in kilograms per hectare) values were: ammonia (NH3), 0.25; nitrate (NO3-), 4.3; total nitrogen (TN), 10.6; orthophosphate (OP), 0.26; total dissolved phosphorus (TDP), 0.30; and total phosphorus (TP), 1.2 during 1999. Streamwater samples were collected during baseflow, elevated baseflow, and stormflow conditions. Stormflow, which produced the greatest flowweighted mean nutrient concentrations, represented only 41 percent of the annual runoff but accounted from 49 to 68 percent of the annual nutrient export. The highest seasonal flow-weighted mean concentrations were measured during the summer; the highest concentrations occurred during a large storm on July 4, 1999 with a recurrence interval greater than 100 years. The greatest seasonal export of dissolved nutrients (NH3, NO3-, OP, and TDP) occurred during the winter, whereas the greatest export of TN and TP was during the summer. Most of the TN and TP export during the summer occurred during the July 4 storm. That storm, together with a second large storm on September 16, 1999, accounted for the following percentages of annual export: ammonia, 17 percent; NO3-, 21 percent; TN, 45 percent; OP, 21 percent; TDP, 21 percent; and TP, 56 percent. Although these results provide information on the quantity and timing of nutrient export, they do not indicate the nutrient source nor the transport mechanisms by which nutrients are delivered to the stream.

Baseflow and stormflow samples were collected for pesticide analyses at the Town Brook watershed outlet from January through July 1999. Eight pesticides and pesticide metabolites (degradation products) were detected in the samples. Four compounds (metolachlor, atrazine, metolachlor ESA, and metolachlor OA) were detected in concentrations greater than 1 micrograms per liter (μg/L) in one or more samples. Two of these compounds.the herbicide metabolites metalochlor ESA and metalochlor OA.were detected in concentrations higher than those of the parent compound metolachlor. Only one sample, collected during the July 4 storm, exceeded New York State surface-water-quality standards for any pesticide (simazine); its concentration of 0.53 μg/L was 0.03 μg/L higher than the New York State standard (0.50 μg/L). No concentrations exceeded Federal water-quality standards. Pesticide and metabolite concentrations were as much as 25 times greater during stormflow than during baseflow. Stormflow pesticide concentrations were indicative of a spring 'flushing', in which stream pesticide concentrations are elevated from concentrations typical during the rest of the year during the first few storms after pesticide application. Pesticides and pesticide metabolites were detected in all stormflow samples. These results illustrate the need to include baseflow and stormflow in pesticide sampling routines.

The results of this study emphasize the need for (1) baseflow and stormflow sampling to capture the range of nutrient and pesticide concentrations from agricultural watersheds, and (2) research to define the mechanisms of nutrient and pesticide export in agriculutral watersheds.

Suggested Citation

McHale, M.R., and Phillips, P.J., 2001, Stream-water chemistry, nutrients, and pesticides in Town Brook, a headwater stream of the Cannonsville Reservoir Watershed, Delaware County, New York, 1999: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 2001–4050, 19 p.,

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Data collection
  • Stream water chemistry
  • Nutrients
  • Federal and New York State water quality standards used in this study
  • Summary
  • References cited


Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Stream-water chemistry, nutrients, and pesticides in Town Brook, a headwater stream of the Cannonsville Reservoir Watershed, Delaware County, New York, 1999
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 2001-4050
DOI 10.3133/wri014050
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New York Water Science Center
Description iv, 19 p.
Country United States
State New York
County Delaware County
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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