Assessing the impact of regional rainfall variability on rapid pesticide leaching potential

Gavan McGrath, Christoph Hinz, Murugesu Sivapalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The timing and magnitude of rainfall events are known to be dominant controls on pesticide migration into streams and groundwater, by triggering rapid flow processes, such as preferential flow and surface runoff. A better understanding of how regional differences in rainfall impact rapid leaching risk is required in order to match the scale at which water regulation occurs. We estimated the potential amount of rapid leaching, and the frequencies of these events in a case study of the southwest of Western Australia, for one soil type and a range of linearly sorbing, first order degrading chemicals. At the regional scale, those chemicals with moderate sorption and long half lives were the most susceptible to rapid transport within a year of application. Within the region, this susceptibility varied depending upon application time and seasonality in storm patterns. Those chemicals and areas with a high potential for rapid transport on average, also experience the greatest inter-annual variability in rapid leaching, as measured by the coefficient of variation. The timing and frequencies of rapid leaching events appeared to strongly relate to an area's relative susceptibility to rapid leaching. In the study region the results also suggested that frontal rainfall dominates rapid leaching along the western and southern coasts while convective thunderstorms play a greater role in the arid east.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-65
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010


  • Pesticide
  • Preferential flow
  • Rainfall
  • Risk assessment
  • Runoff
  • Seasonality
  • Solute transport
  • Western Australia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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