US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Environ. Sci. Technol. 1997, 31, 1325-1333.


Herbicides were detected in rainfall throughout the midwestern and northeastern United States during late spring and summer of 1990 and 1991. Herbicide concentrations exhibited distinct geographic and seasonal patterns. The highest concentrations occurred in midwestern cornbelt states following herbicide application to cropland. Volume-weighted concentrations of 0.2-0.4 μg/L for atrazine and alachlor were typical in this area during mid-April through mid-July, and weighted concentrations as large as 0.6- 0.9 μg/L occurred at several sites. Concentrations of 1-3 μg/L were measured in a few individual samples. Atrazine was detected most often followed by alachlor, deethylatrazine, metolachlor, cyanazine, and deisopropylatrazine. The high ratio (~0.5) of deethylatrazine to atrazine in rainfall suggests atmospheric degradation of atrazine. Mass deposition of herbicides was greatest in areas where herbicide use was high and decreased with distance from the cornbelt. Estimated deposition rates for both atrazine and alachlor ranged from more than 240 μg m-2 yr-1 for some areas in the midwestern states to less than 10 μg m-2 yr-1 for the New England states. The estimated annual deposition of atrazine on the Great Lakes ranged from about 12 to 63 μg m-2 yr-1. The total amounts of atrazine and alachlor deposited annually in rainfall in the study area represent about 0.6% of the atrazine and 0.4% of the alachlor applied annually to crops in the study area.