A pesticide surface water mobility index and its relationship with concentrations in agricultural drainage watersheds



An index to benchmark pesticide mobility relevant to surface water runoff and soil erosion (surface water mobility index, or SWMI) was derived based on two key environmental fate parameters: degradation half-life and organic carbon-normalized soil/water sorption coefficient (Koc). Values assigned with the index of each individual compound correlate well with the concentration trend of 13 pesticides monitored in six Lake Erie, USA, tributaries from 1983 to 1991. Regression using a power function of SWMI fits concentration data well at various percentiles in the database for each tributary and all six tributaries combined, with r2 ranging from 0.71 to 0.94 for the concentrations at the 95th percentile. Good agreement was also obtained between SWMI and the timeweighted annual mean concentrations (r2 = 0.67–0.87). Although concentrations at or near peaks tend to be driven by rare hydrological events (intense precipitation immediately after application), SWMI explains the peak concentration data generally well (r2 = 0.53–0.86). The SWMI-concentration relationship was further evaluated with two other pesticide monitoring databases: the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program White River Study Unit (1991–1996) at Hazelton, Indiana, USA, and the Syngenta (previously Novartis) Voluntary Monitoring Program with Community Water Systems at the Higginsville City Lake, Missouri, USA (1995–1997). The ability of the proposed SWMI to discriminate pesticide runoff mobility and its correlation with surface water monitoring data can be significant in the development of screening methodologies and data-based models for government agencies and/or practitioners in general facing increasing pressure to assess pesticide occurrence in aquatic environments.