Water-quality assessment of the Trinity River Basin, Texas - Review and analysis of available pesticide information, 1968-91

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4218




In 1991 the Trinity River Basin study unit was among the first 20 study units in which work began under full-scale program implementation of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. A retrospective assessment was undertaken to review and analyze existing pesticide data and related environmental factors. Population and land-use data indicate human modifications to the landscape and hydrologic system of the study area during the period 1968–91. A variety of crops treated with pesticides were identified, with wheat and cotton accounting for the largest number of acres treated annually (541,250 and 519,870 acres, respectively). Agricultural-use estimates for the later period covered by this report (1988–90) indicate that 105 different pesticides were used and that 24 pesticides accounted for 75 percent of average agricultural use in the study area. Sorghum was treated by the largest number of the 24 mostused pesticides, and cotton was treated by the second largest number of those pesticides. Dimethoate and methyl parathion were the most heavily used of the organophosphate class pesticides. The herbicide 2,4–D was the most heavily used chlorophenoxy pesticide. Carbamate pesticides are used extensively in the study area, with carbaryl, carbofuran, methomyl, and thiodicarb accounting for the majority of the use of this class of pesticide. Miscellaneous pesticides included alachlor, arsenic acid, picloram, and glyphosate, among others. The data indicate that herbicide use generally is proportionally higher in the study area than in the Nation, and that insecticide use in the study area generally is proportionally lower than in the Nation.

Eight different agencies collected the waterquality data used in this report. Samples were collected by all agencies at a combined total of 155 surface-water sites and 121 ground-water sites. The sampled media included water, bed sediment, and tissues of fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Some 273 samples for analysis of the herbicide 2,4–D were collected as part of the city of Arlington’s data-collection program. The herbicide was detected in 74 percent of the samples, but none exceeded the Maximum Contamination Level for drinking water.

Dallas Water Utilities collected pesticide samples during a storm in February 1977. Samples were collected at 17 sites with detections of some pesticides in over 50 percent of the samples. Diazinon was detected in 56 percent of samples and 2,4–D was found in 56 percent of samples.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department collected samples from fish tissue for analyses of organochlorine pesticides from 15 sites in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Chlordane concentrations in some of the samples exceeded the Food and Drug Administration’s action level of 300 micrograms per kilogram.

The Texas Water Commission collected ground-water samples in the study area during 1990 for the major types of pesticides and none were detected. No arsenic was detected in samples from 121 wells in or near the study area. Organochlorine and organophosphate samples were collected beginning in 1974 and ending in 1991. Concentrations of organochlorine pesticides in bed sediment decrease with increasing distance downstream from the Dallas-Fort Worth urban area.

Pesticide samples collected by the U.S. Geological Survey indicated significant rank correlation between number of detects of chlordane and the percent of the contributing watershed classified as urban land use. Dieldrin in bed sediment samples, and lindane, diazinon, and malathion, in water samples, also were significantly correlated with urban land use. Chlordane and dieldrin were significantly correlated with distance downstream from the Dallas-Fort Worth urban area.

Review of all available data showed that pesticides were detected to a substantial degree in various sample media over the time period covered by this report. The authors were able to locate little pesticide-sample data for ground water or for tributary streams because sampling efforts historically have been concentrated on the mainstem Trinity River.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality assessment of the Trinity River Basin, Texas - Review and analysis of available pesticide information, 1968-91
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Austin, TX
Contributing office(s):
Texas Water Science Center
viii, 88 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Trinity River Basin
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