Diazinon, an organophosphate insecticide, is applied as an orchard dormant spray in the Sacramento Valley during the winter months when the area receives most of its annual rainfall. During winter rainstorms that frequently follow dormant spray applications, some of the applied pesticide is transported in storm runoff to the Sacramento River and its tributaries. Diazinon is also used to control insect pests on residential and commercial properties in urban areas and is frequently detected in urban storm runoff draining into the Sacramento River system.
Between January 24 and February 14, 2001, diazinon concentrations and loads were measured in the Sacramento River and selected tributaries during two winter storms that occurred after dormant spray applications were made to orchards in the Sacramento Valley. Water samples were collected at 21 sites that represented agricultural and urban inputs on a variety of scales, from small tributaries and drains representing local land use to main-stem river sites representing regional effects.
Concentrations of diazinon ranged from below laboratory reporting levels to 1,380 nanograms per liter (ng/L), with a median of 55 ng/L during the first monitored storm and 26 ng/L during the second. The highest concentrations were observed in small channels draining predominantly agricultural land.
About 26,000 pounds of diazinon were reported applied to agricultural land in the study area just before and during the monitoring period. About 0.2 percent of the applied insecticide appeared to be transported to the lower Sacramento River during that period. The source of about one third of the total load measured in the lower Sacramento River appears to be in the portion of the drainage basin upstream of the city of Colusa. About 12 percent of the diazinon load in the lower Sacramento River was transported from the Feather River Basin, which drains much of the mountainous eastern portions of the Sacramento River Basin.
Diazinon use in the study area during the 2000?2001 dormant spray season continued a declining trend observed since 1993. The maximum concentrations of diazinon observed during the last 2 years of monitoring were lower than concentrations observed in previous years when larger amounts of diazinon had been applied as dormant sprays.