Assessing herbicide concentrations in the saturated and unsaturated zone of a Chalk Aquifer in Southern England

Gooddy, Daren; Bloomfield, John ORCID:; Chilton, John; Johnson, Andrew; Williams, Richard. 2001 Assessing herbicide concentrations in the saturated and unsaturated zone of a Chalk Aquifer in Southern England. Ground Water, 39 (2). 262-271.

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The behavior of the herbicides isoproturon (IPU) and chlortoluron (CTU) in ground water and shallow unsaturated zone sediments were evaluated at a site situated on the Chalk in southern England. Concentrations of IPU in ground water samples varied from <0.05 to 0.23 μg/L over a five-year period of monitoring, and were found to correlate with application of the pesticide. Concentrations of pesticides in ground water samples collected during periods of rising water table were significantly higher than pumped samples and suggest that rapidly infiltrating recharge water contains higher herbicide concentrations than the native ground water. Significant variations in herbicide concentrations were observed over a three-month period in ground water samples collected by an automated system, with concentrations of IPU ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 μg/L, and concentrations of a recent application of CTU ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 μg/L. Different extraction methods were used to assess pore water concentrations of herbicides in the unsaturated zone, and samples were analyzed by standard HPLC analysis and immunoassay (ELISA) methods. These data indicated highly variable concentrations of herbicide ranging from 4 to 200 g/ha for HPLC and 0.01 to 0.04 g/ha for ELISA, but indicate a general pattern of decreasing concentrations with depth. The results of this study indicate that transport of IPU and CTU through the unsaturated zone to shallow ground water occurs and that this transport Increases immediately following herbicide application. Measured concentrations of herbicides are generally lower than specified by the European Union Drinking Water Directive, but are observed to spike above this limit. These results imply that, while delivery of pesticides to ground water can occur as a result of normal agricultural practices, the Impact on potable supplies Is likely to be negligible due to the potential for degradation during the relatively long travel time through the unsaturated zone and high degree of dilution that occurs within the aquifer. As a result of the wide variation in concentrations detected by different techniques, it is suggested that for future site Investigations more than one sampling strategy be employed to characterize the occurrence of pesticide residues and elucidate the transport mechanisms.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Groundwater Management
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Pesticide pollution, Major aquifer
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Related URLs:
Date made live: 22 Jul 2009 13:21 +0 (UTC)

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