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Agricultural diffuse pollution in a chalk aquifer (Trois Fontaines, France): Influence of pesticide properties and hydrodynamic constraints

Baran, N., Lepiller, M., Mouvet, C.
Journal of hydrology 2008 v.358 no.1-2 pp. 56-69
groundwater contamination, herbicide residues, atrazine, isoproturon, aquifers, infiltration (hydrology), leaching, nitrates, chlorides, hydrochemistry, France
The characterization of the transfer of pesticides to and in groundwater is essential for effective water resource management. Intensive monitoring, from October 1989 to May 2006, of a weakly karstified chalk aquifer system in a 50km² agricultural catchment, enabled the characterization of the temporal variability of pesticide concentrations in the groundwater of the main outlet. Atrazine and its metabolite deethylatrazine were quantified 394 and 393 times in 476 samples with concentrations ranging from the quantification limit (0.025μgL⁻¹) to 5.3 and 1.86μgL⁻¹, respectively. This common presence, compared to the rare detections of isoproturon (in 108 of 476 samples), the pesticide most widely used in the catchment during at least the past decade, highlighted the significant effect of pesticide properties in the time series of concentrations observed in the groundwater. The use of geochemical tracers (nitrate, chloride) analysed in the groundwater and the hydrodynamic monitoring of the system (discharge, water levels) enabled identification of various infiltration mechanisms governing the functioning of the system. The hydrodynamic study showing that the relative contribution of the infiltration mechanisms varies with time, made it possible to explain major variations observed in the pesticide-concentration time series recorded at the spring.