US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Environ. Sci. Technol. 1992, 26, 2440-2447.


Preemergent herbicides and their metabolites, particularly atrazine, deethylatrazine, and metolachlor, persisted from 1989 to 1990 in the majority of rivers and streams in the midwestern United States. In spring, after the application of herbicides, the concentrations of atrazine, alachlor, and simazine were frequently 3-10 times greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level (MCL). The concentration of herbicides exceeded the MCLs both singly and in combination. Two major degradation products of atrazine (deisopropylatrazine and deethylatrazine) also were found in many of the streams. The order of persistence of the herbicides and their metabolites in surface water was atrazine > deethylatrazine > metolachlor > alachlor > deisopropylatrazine > cyanazine. Storm runoff collected at several sites exceeded the MCL multiple times during the summer months as a function of stream discharge, with increased concentrations during times of increased streamflow. It is proposed that metabolites of atrazine may be used as indicators of surface-water movement into adjacent alluvial aquifers.