Seasonal Changes in Concentrations of Dissolved Pesticides and Organic Carbon in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California, 1994–1996
By James L. Orlando and Kathryn M. Kuivila
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta (Delta) of California is an ecologically rich and hydrologically complex region that receives runoff from nearly one-quarter of the state. Water-quality studies of surface water in the region have found dissolved pesticides in winter storm runoff at concentrations toxic to some aquatic invertebrates. However, scientists have little information on pesticide concentrations in the Delta on a seasonal timescale or the importance of pesticide contributions from within-Delta sources. Consequently, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study from 1994 to 1996 during which water samples were collected seasonally from 31 sites located within the Delta and on major tributaries to the Delta. Water samples were analyzed for 20 current-use pesticides and dissolved organic carbon. During the study, 11 current-use pesticides were detected; maximum concentrations ranging from 17 ng/L (for trifluralin) to 1,160 ng/L (for metolachlor). The highest concentrations of five pesticides (carbaryl, carbofuran, metolachlor, molinate, and simazine) were greater than 900 ng/L. The greatest number of pesticides was detected in the summer of 1994, whereas the least number were detected in the winter of 1994. The herbicides metolachlor and simazine were the most frequently detected pesticides and were detected in five of the six sampling seasons. The herbicides molinate and EPTC were detected only during the three summer sampling seasons. A comparison of pesticides detected during the spring and summer of 1995 showed some seasonal variability. Comparison of the three summer seasons sampled showed that a larger number of pesticides were detected, and with generally higher maximum concentrations, in 1994 than in 1995 or 1996. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations ranged, over the course of the study, from 1.4 mg/L to 10.4 mg/L, and had a median concentration of 3.8 mg/L. On a seasonal basis, the lowest maximum DOC concentrations occurred during the summer and winter of 1994. The highest median DOC concentration on a seasonal basis occurred in the spring of 1995. This previously unreported data is being published now to provide historical information on pesticide concentrations in the Delta to water managers and the scientific community.