Aquifer sensitivity to pesticide leaching: Testing a soils and hydrogeologic index method

Edward Mehnert, Donald A. Keefer, William S. Dey, H. Allen Wehrmann, Steven D. Wilson, Chittaranjan Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


For years, researchers have sought index and other methods to predict aquifer sensitivity and vulnerability to nonpoint pesticide contamination. In 1995, an index method and map were developed to define aquifer sensitivity to pesticide leaching based on a combination of soil and hydrogeologic factors. The soil factor incorporated three soil properties: hydraulic conductivity, amount of organic matter within individual soil layers, and drainage class. These properties were obtained from a digital soil association map. The hydrogeologic factor was depth to uppermost aquifer material. To test this index method, a shallow ground water monitoring well network was designed, installed, and sampled in Illinois. The monitoring wells had a median depth of 7.6 m and were located adjacent to corn and soybean fields where the only known sources of pesticides were those used in normal agricultural production. From September 1998 through February 2001, 159 monitoring wells were sampled for 14 pesticides but no pesticide metabolites. Samples were collected and analyzed to assess the distribution of pesticide occurrence across three units of aquifer sensitivity. Pesticides were detected in 18% of all samples and nearly uniformly from samples from the three units of aquifer sensitivity. The new index method did not predict pesticide occurrence because occurrence was not dependent on the combined soil and hydrogeologic factors. However, pesticide occurrence was dependent on the tested hydrogeologic factor and was three times higher in areas where the depth to the uppermost aquifer was <6 m than in areas where the depth to the uppermost aquifer was 6 to <15 m.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-67
Number of pages8
JournalGround Water Monitoring and Remediation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology

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