Agricultural chemicals in ground and surface water in a small watershed in Clayton County, Iowa, 1988-91

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4158
Prepared in cooperation with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Geological Survey Bureau)
By:  and 



An investigation was conducted from October 1988 through September 1991 to (1) describe the quality of water in shallow, unconsolidated materials in the 1.09-square-mile Deer Creek watershed in Clayton County, Iowa, and to (2) define the quantity and seasonal distribution of selected agricultural chemicals in water from this watershed. Surficial unconsolidated aquifer materials that discharge water to Deer Creek include alluvium, loess, and glacial till. More than 80 percent of the watershed is used for row and cover crops. Median nitrate concentrations ranged from 16 mg/L (milligrams per liter) in water from the top of the 10-foot thick alluvial aquifer to less than 0.10 mg/L near the bottom. Atrazine was detected in more than 85 percent of the ground-water samples collected at or less than 5.5 feet below land surface. Only one sample collected at 7.0 feet below land surface in the alluvial aquifer had an atrazine concentration greater than the detection limit of 0.10 ug/L (micrograms per liter). Nitrogen and herbicide concentrations were largest in late spring and early summer. Sources of agricultural chemicals in the alluvial aquifer include vertical infiltration through the soil and lateral transport from upslope unconsolidated materials.

Nitrogen was present in all water samples from Deer Creek. Nitrate concentrations ranged from 0.70 to 17 mg/L. Alachlor was detected in 11 percent of the samples, atrazine in 69 percent, cyanazine in 19 percent, and metolachlor in 33 percent. Alachlor concentrations ranged from less than 0.10 to 0.53 ug/L, atrazine ranged from less than 0.10 to 55 ug/L, cyanazine ranged from less than 0.10 to 12 ug/L, and metolachlor ranged from less than 0.10 to 69 ug/L. Herbicide detections occurred most frequently in late spring and early summer during or just following chemical application. Overland flow is an important source of nitrogen and herbicides to Deer Creek. Substantial amounts of agricultural chemicals are transported from the watershed. As much as 4,700 pounds, or 6.7 pounds per acre, of nitrogen were estimated to be transported from the watershed in 1 year. Nitrogen loads transported from the Deer Creek watershed were less during dry years than during years with average or greater than average rainfall.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Agricultural chemicals in ground and surface water in a small watershed in Clayton County, Iowa, 1988-91
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 95-4158
DOI 10.3133/wri954158
Year Published 1995
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Iowa City, IA
Contributing office(s) Iowa Water Science Center
Description vi, 38 p.
Country United States
State Iowa
County Clayton County
Other Geospatial Deer Creek watershed
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details