Assessing pesticide loading and concentration with assistance of integrated hydrological models in streams of small to medium-sized watersheds

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University of New Brunswick


Pesticides are increasingly used around the world alone with the expansion of intensive crop cultivation and food production. Pesticide residues from agriculture fields being carried to surface and ground water impose a potential threat to the aquatic ecosystem as well as to human health. However, monitoring potential threat of pesticide residuals in river systems is expensive and difficult. Previous studies indicated that traditionally used grab sampling methods could potentially underestimate the maximum concentrations of pesticide residues in streams by 10 to 1000 times. The objective of this study was to assess pesticide loading and concentration with assistance of integrated hydrological models in streams of small to medium- sized watersheds. Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was selected for simulating hydrological processes together with pesticide loading and in stream pesticide concentration. Model predicted pesticide loading and pesticide concentration was compared with three years measured data from Black Brook Watershed and two Sub-basins within the same watershed. We found that the model predicted pesticide loading and in stream concentrations of three pesticides had the same seasonal trend with field surveys with some discrepancies. The discrepancies are likely caused by three main factors. 1. Model predicts the daily pesticide loading and daily average pesticide concentration and while actual pesticide concentrations change rapidly during stormflow period. 2. Current field sampling method could not capture the rapid change of pesticide concentration due to mechanical limitations. 3. Input data on exact pesticide application date were not available. In general, the pesticide modelling results indicate that the model is an effective tool in loading and concentration prediction in small agricultural watershed. We also found the model predicted pesticide loading during baseflow period were relatively high compare with near zero pesticide concentration observed. This suggest there is a need to improve in pesticide routing algorithm in SWAT model and current estimation during based flow period should be manually adjusted.