Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5178


Prepared in cooperation with the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the
Southwest Florida Water Management District

Water Quality and Evaluation of Pesticides in Lakes in the Ridge Citrus Region of Central Florida

Anne F. Choquette and Sharon E. Kroening


      Select an option:

      Purpose and Scope
      Influences of Agrichemicals on Lake Systems
Description of Study Area
      Physical Setting, Climate, and Land Use
      Agrichemical Usage
      Hydrology of Ridge Seepage Lakes
Selection and Description of Sampled Lakes
Methods of Study
      Sampling and Laboratory Methods
      Quality Assurance
      Analytical Methods
Lake Water Quality
      Physical Properties and Major Constituents
      Pesticides and Pesticide Degradates
            Occurrence of Pesticides
            Comparisons to Benchmark Values
            Areal and Seasonal Variations
            Comparisons of Parent Pesticides and Degradates
                  Norflurazon and Degradate
                  Simazine, Atrazine, and Degradates
                  Diuron and Degradates
                  Aldicarb and Degradates
            Variations within the Lake Water Column
            Comparison to National Studies
            Relation of Chemical Properties and Usage to Pesticide Occurrence
            Discussion of Pesticide Transport and Fate
References Cited
1. Constituents, analytical methods, and reporting levels for water-quality samples analyzed in the lake samples
2. Field measurements and laboratory results for major water-quality constituents and nutrients in the lake samples
3. Laboratory results for detected pesticides and degradates in the lake samples
4. Summary statistics of detected pesticide and degradate concentrations by lake
5. Summary of parent pesticides and order of degradation for triazine pesticide degradates


      Water chemistry, including major inorganic constituents, nutrients, and pesticide compounds, was compared between seven lakes surrounded by citrus agriculture and an undeveloped lake on the Lake Wales Ridge (herein referred to as the Ridge) in central Florida. The region has been recognized for its vulnerability to the leaching of agricultural chemicals into the subsurface due to factors including soils, climate, and land use. About 40 percent of Florida’s citrus cultivation occurs in “ridge citrus” areas characterized by sandy well drained soils, with the remainder in “flatwoods citrus” characterized by high water tables and poorly drained soils. The lakes on the Ridge are typically flow-through lakes that exchange water with adjacent and underlying aquifer systems. This study is the first to evaluate the occurrence of pesticides in lakes on the Ridge, and also represents one of the first monitoring efforts nationally to focus on regional-scale assessment of current-use pesticides in small- to moderate-sized lakes (5 to 393 acres). The samples were collected between December 2003 and September 2005.
      The lakes in citrus areas contained elevated concentrations of major inorganic constituents (including alkalinity, total dissolved solids, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfate), total nitrogen, pH, and pesticides compared to the undeveloped lake. Nitrate (as N) and total nitrogen concentrations were typically elevated in the citrus lakes, with maximum values of 4.70 and 5.19 mg/L (milligrams per liter), respectively. Elevated concentrations of potassium, nitrate, and other inorganic constituents in the citrus lakes likely reflect inputs from the surficial ground-water system that originated predominantly from agricultural fertilizers, soil amendments, and inorganic pesticides.
      A total of 20 pesticide compounds were detected in the lakes, of which 12 compounds exceeded the standardized reporting level of 0.06 µg/L (microgram per liter). Those most frequently detected above the 0.06-µg/L level were aldicarb sulfoxide, diuron, simazine degradates hydroxysimazine and didealkylatrazine (DDA), bromacil, norflurazon, and demethyl norflurazon which occurred at detection rates ranging from 25 to 86 percent of samples, respectively. Typically, pesticide concentrations in the lake samples were less than 1 microgram per liter. The number of targeted pesticide compounds detected per lake in the citrus areas ranged from 9 to 14 compared to 3 compounds detected at trace levels in the undeveloped lake. Consistent detections of parents and degradates in quarterly samples indicated the presence of pesticide compounds in the lakes many months or years (for example, bromacil) after their application, signaling the persistence of some pesticide compounds in the lakes and/or ground-water systems. Pesticide degradate concentrations frequently exceeded parent concentrations in the lakes. This study was the first in the Ridge citrus region to analyze for glyphosate—widely used in citrus—and its degradate aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), neither of which were detected, as well as a number of triazine degradates, including hydroxysimazine, which were detected.
      The lake pesticide concentrations did not exceed current Federal aquatic-life benchmarks, available for 10 of the 20 detected pesticide compounds. Limited occurrences of bromacil, diuron, or norflurazon concentrations were within about 10 to 90 percent of benchmark guidelines for acute effects on nonvascular aquatic plants in one or two of the lakes. The lake pesticide concentrations for several targeted pesticides were relatively high compared to corresponding national stream-water percentiles, which is consistent with this region’s vulnerability for pesticide leaching into water resources.
      Several factors were evaluated to gain insight into the processes controlling pesticide transport and fate, and to assess their utility for estimating the relative likelihood of transport to the lakes for specific pesticides and for designing future pesticide sampling networks. These factors included variations in pesticide concentrations within the lake water column, indexes of pesticide usage estimates and chemical properties to identify pesticides prone to transport, comparisons between pesticide concentrations in the lakes and in adjacent ground water, and the relation between nitrate and pesticide concentrations. Further study is needed to better understand the role of pesticide inputs from ground-water and atmospheric sources, in-lake processes of pesticide breakdown, and the influence of the lakes on regional ground-water quality in this dynamic, closely linked ground-water/surface-water system.

Suggested Citation:

Choquette, A.F., and Kroening, S.E., 2009, Water Quality and Evaluation of Pesticides in Lakes in the Ridge Citrus Region of Central Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5178, 55 p.

For more information, contact:

Anne Choquette
U.S. Geological Survey
640 Grassmere Park Dr., Ste 100
Nashville, TN 37211

Anne Choquette at

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