How chemical runoff from pesticides gets into water - Natran Green Pest Control | Texas Botanical Pest Control (2023)

When people think of pesticides, they often only want to think of the benefits that pesticides can provide.

In a business sense, farmers spray pesticides on their fields to warn off insects and other pests. If effective, pesticides protect crops and allow farmers to have a higher yield. That means more food for them to sell and more food for the rest of the world.

In your home, you and your neighbors may be using pesticides in your yard to kill weeds and keep pests out of your home. When the alternative means pulling weeds every weekend and fighting spiders, roaches, ants and other pests that invade your home, spraying some pesticides around your home can seem like a necessary evil and well worth the cost to the environment.

It's easy not to think about the damage that pesticides do to the environment and especially to our waterways. We figure that if we don't see the effects or experience them firsthand, they can't be that bad, right?

When used on a farm and neighboring lawns, pesticides can seep into groundwater and end up in drinking water. Pesticides are poisonous in certain amounts and can be especially harmful to children – not to mention all organisms that live in water supplies. Pesticides in drinking water can have a crippling effect on the ecosystem as a whole, from the plants that live in the lakes and rivers we get our water from right into our homes. It is in everyone's interest to keep drinking water as clean as possible, whether or not we can see the effects directly.

Think of it this way: you see the positive effects of clean water every day when you turn on the faucet to fill a glass or take a shower. You may not see the negative effects of pesticides on your drinking water, but you may be taking clean water for granted every day – something that people in other neighborhoods may not be able to do.

As they say, knowledge is power. The more you know about the harmful effects of chemical runoff from conventional pesticides on drinking water and other parts of the ecosystem, the more you will struggle to avoid using them in your home. Here's a detailed look at how chemical runoff from pesticides affects water supplies, communities and your home, and health in particular.

How pesticides get from the field or lawn into drinking water

Pesticides come in different forms depending on the application. You're probably most familiar with airborne sprays that you can use on weeds in your garden or around the perimeter of your home. Other pesticides, however, can be applied directly to the soil.

Not all pesticides are naturally toxic to the environment. In some cases, sunlight, bacteria in the soil, and the chemical compound in pesticides allow them to break down quickly without affecting the environment. However, there are pesticides that create even more toxic chemicals when they break down, which can also cause problems.

The damage a pesticide can do usually depends on how volatile it is and its solubility. The more volatile a pesticide is, the easier it is for that pesticide to enter the atmosphere, as we explain below. Pesticide solubility determines how easily that pesticide dissolves in water.

To understand how pesticides move from a field or lawn into drinking water, it is important to understand the basic way in which water moves.

If you think back to third grade science, you know that water evaporates when the temperature increases. These particles can easily move once evaporated as they turn into clouds and vapor. When the particles become too heavy to hold in a cloud, rain or snow falls to earth, depositing the water particles back into the ground, where they will eventually evaporate once more. In a nutshell, this is the water cycle.

When pesticides bind to water particles, they can enter the water cycle. Remember, clouds and steam can move quickly, which means pesticides can too. If the water in a field near Houston evaporates, the pesticides in that field could be transported to waterways across Texas and beyond. It also means that pesticides used anywhere else in the world can get into drinking water.

The physical and chemical properties of the pesticide also influence whether the pesticide will be able to enter the water cycle. There are also environmental factors that will determine whether a pesticide can enter the water cycle.

Pesticides with higher solubility can also enter the environment through rainwater as chemical runoff. When that happens, the rainwater that leaves the fields and flows into the rivers and lakes takes these chemicals with it – and this can cause serious problems.

The effect of pesticides on the environment

When we talk about the environment here, we are referring to natural habitats – forests, lakes and rivers. These are city parks, as well as state and national parks, where you can take your family for walks. All these places are at risk from pesticides used in the environment.

As we mentioned, the volatility of a pesticide will determine how likely it is to be airborne. When a pesticide is airborne, it can move hundreds of miles and end up in many different environments. It can land on food growing in other fields or attach itself to plants in a nearby forest. When animals go to eat these plants, they can get sick and die, which can create a big problem in the local food chain.

When a pesticide has high solubility, it can easily dissolve in water and be carried away by runoff. In a natural environment, this can affect any animal or organism that uses this water supply. For plants that can absorb contaminated water through the soil, they can be poisoned and die, or an animal that eats the plant can also get sick. When the pesticide is in the water itself, the fish and other organisms that live in the water can get sick and die, as can any animals, such as bears, that eat those fish. In fact, just drinking the water can also poison the animals in the area.

Both factors can vary in strength, and just because a pesticide isn't very volatile or has low solubility doesn't mean it won't affect the environment. As mentioned earlier, a pesticide that breaks down can actually produce even more toxic chemicals. In short, there is no winning with pesticides.

Who is most at risk from pesticides in the environment?

If you drink water contaminated with pesticides, you are certainly at risk. However, pesticides can affect people in different ways, depending on their age and the body's ability to adapt to fight the chemicals.

Most groups identify three types of people who are more at risk than others when exposed to pesticides: children, pregnant women, and aging populations. This does not mean that these people will die immediately when exposed to a pesticide, but they can experience severe symptoms that can drastically affect their health.

Children, for example, are always growing and developing. Excessive exposure to a pesticide can stunt your physical and mental growth. Babies are especially at risk because their kidneys and liver cannot filter pesticides as well as an adult's. Children tend to spend time closer to the ground and outside where pesticides are easily found than they are more likely to put things they shouldn't in their mouths. This is a normal price of having children, but it could be a pesticide problem.

When a woman is pregnant, she shares virtually every part of her body with her baby. If she is exposed to a pesticide, so will the baby. If overexposed, the development of the baby can be affected and, in some extreme cases, death can occur.

As we age, our immune systems decline and they have a harder time fighting off pathogens and other chemicals. For aging populations, even lower exposures to harmful pesticides can be dangerous. Their bodies may not be able to fight off the chemicals and they may become ill or even die.

When considering a pesticide, remember to think about its toxicity and exposure and the balance between the two. A low toxicity pesticide used in a tight space can become toxic very quickly.

Examples of pesticides affecting drinking water in the news

You don't have to look far to find examples of contaminated drinking water and its effects on communities across the United States and around the world. Even in one of the richest countries in the world, there are many communities that do not have access to safe drinking water.

You might think, "Well, they can just drink bottled water," but that's just the beginning of the problem. People living in these communities are not allowed to bathe in the water or bathe their children. When they want to cook, they can't use tap water – that means no boiling water for pasta or even washing an apple without getting bottled water. Plants cannot be watered and hands cannot be washed. Not having access to clean water goes far beyond not drinking tap water.

Media around the world have reported the effects of pesticides on water and the environment. Here are some stories you should follow and some in-depth reports on communities affected by unsafe drinking water.

Roundup processes:Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Bayer, maker of Roundup herbicide. Earlier this year, the state of California ruled that glyphosate-based herbicide was responsible for causing cancer. To learn more, check out these stories:

Contaminated drinking water stories:These resources are concentrated in communities where drinking water is unsafe.

But like everything else in life, pesticides complicate things when other factors, such as the risk of mosquito-borne disease, are at play. These stories from across the country show how all these factors can create problems for communities.

How Natran responds to pesticides

The best thing we can all do for the safety and health of our plant and ourselves is to find ways to limit pesticide use. That's why at Natran we always recommend using integrated pest management at home as a way to prevent pests without resorting to harmful chemicals.

Integrated pest management refers to a system of simple, easy-to-do activities around your home that will decrease the amount of pests in your home without spraying chemicals all over your home and lawn. It combines some common sense tactics with a little science to fight pests inside your home.

Of course, part of the integrated pest management strategy is knowing when to call in a professional, and that's where Natran comes in. your door, your children and pets will be protected from harmful chemicals. Not only will we stop the infestation, but we'll also give you peace of mind.

Tell us: How are you learning about pesticides and their effects on our drinking water? Share with us in the comments.


How do pesticides get into the water? ›

Pesticides can reach water-bearing aquifers below ground from applications onto crop fields, seepage of contaminated surface water, accidental spills and leaks, improper disposal, and even through injection waste material into wells.

How do chemical pesticides get into local waterways? ›

Pesticides reach creeks and rivers through storm drains and household drains. When you apply a pesticide or fertilizer outdoors, some of the material may move to other locations. Storm drains are frequently located in streets.

How does pesticide runoff occur? ›

Runoff/leaching can occur when too much pesticide is applied or is spilled on the surface, too much rainwater or irrigation water occurs in a short period of time, or highly water soluble pesticides are used.

Do pesticides run off into water? ›

Pesticides have the potential to contaminate drinking water supplies. They are applied to farmlands, gardens and lawns and can make their way into ground water or surface water systems that feed drinking water supplies.

How do you prevent pesticides from getting into water? ›

Public drinking water systems use pesticides like chlorine to kill bacteria, viruses and other organisms, making the water safe to drink. Point-of-use devices like charcoal filters and reverse-osmosis treatments can be used to remove or minimize pesticides in drinking water.

What are the two methods in which pesticides typically enter a water body? ›

Pesticide moves into water bodies via point source and nonpoint source.

What happens when pesticides get into the ocean? ›

Marine Life: Pesticides being chemicals are harmful to live. When pesticides get into water bodies, water animals are not spare as it can kill animals such as fish. Food Chain Disruption: When pesticides come in contacts with water bodies, they can interfere with the food chain and cause disease in hidden ways.

How do pesticides and chemical fertilizers get into rivers? ›

Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used to kill agricultural pests. These chemicals can enter and contaminate water through direct application, runoff, and atmospheric deposition.

What percent of water is contaminated by pesticides? ›

Studies of major rivers and streams find that 90% of fish, 100% of surface water samples, and 41% of major aquifers contain one or more pesticides at detectable levels.

How long do pesticides stay in water? ›

In soil, the half-life of permethrin is about 40 days, ranging from 11-113 days. In the water column, the half-life of permethrin is 19-27 hours. If it sticks to sediment, it can last over a year.

What are the dangers of pesticide runoff? ›

Pesticide runoff to streams can pose risks to aquatic life, fish-eating wildlife, and drinking water supplies. Pollutants from agricultural operations can also enter groundwater and degrade sources of drinking water.

How do you deal with pesticide runoff? ›

Minimize herbicide use by combining chemical control with other pest management practices such as tillage, cultivation, crop rotation and pest scouting. Rotate crops. Crop rotation can improve water infiltration, which reduces runoff.

Can you filter pesticides out of water? ›

The good news is that pesticides can be removed from tap water with an affordable and simple to use water filter system. Activated Carbon filters are generally the most effective in removing pesticides thanks to the adsorption effect.

What is the best way to remove pesticides from water? ›

Reverse osmosis filters (also called ultrafiltration).

Reverse osmosis filters are said to remove 99 percent of the toxic chemicals in water, including some pesticides.

How do pesticides affect rivers? ›

Water from excessive rainfall and irrigation cannot always be held within the soil structure. Therefore, pesticides and residues (also nitrates and phosphates) can be quickly transported to contaminate ground water and freshwater supplies over a large geographical area.

How do pesticides affect the water cycle? ›

Pesticides can pollute water through either surface runoff or leaching. Pesticides can enter water through surface runoff, leaching or erosion.

How can we prevent pesticide contamination in groundwater? ›

Avoid irrigation runoff.

Runoff should be avoided by not using an excessive amount of irrigation water. Avoiding irrigation runoff will reduce soil erosion and pesticide entry into the surface and groundwater. This is especially critical for clay soils which are subject to rapid runoff.

What should be done to avoid a pesticide getting into your water source at a mix load site? ›

Protect your water source by keeping the water pipe or hose well above the level of the pesticide mixture. This prevents contamination of the hose and keeps pesticides from back-siphoning into the water source.

What are the three routes by which pesticides can enter the body? ›

A person has to come into direct contact with pesticides and herbicides before injury and illness can occur. The three main entry routes for these compounds into the body are dermal, (exposure through the skin or eyes), respiratory (inhalation into the lungs), and oral (ingestion by mouth).

What are 3 ways pesticides enter the body? ›

Pesticides can get inside your body from eating, drinking, breathing them in, and by skin contact. The most effective way to reduce risk for pesticides is to use integrated pest management and avoid using pesticides.

What two factors determine how quickly pesticides come in contact with groundwater? ›

There are several factors that determine the likelihood of a pesticide reaching surface or ground water: The properties of the pesticide, properties of the soil, conditions of the site and pesticide management practices.

What is the world's most toxic pollutant? ›

All in all, mercury is one of the most deadly toxic pollutants in the air. Not only is Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) a substantial pollutant in our air and a direct result of coal power plants, it is also one of the causes of some serious health problems. It can be a root cause of lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis.

Does bottled water have pesticides? ›

Well, go ahead and do exactly that. For bottled water does contain pesticide residues. All kinds of bottled water, whether national (like Bisleri), or multinational (like Kinley). In most, the pesticide residues are above what would be acceptable limits.

Do pesticides pollute the ocean? ›

Contamination of creeks, rivers, and oceans

California creeks, rivers, and oceans are being contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals commonly used around our homes and gardens. These garden chemicals are not only a threat to aquatic life, but they can also affect the quality of our drinking water.

How do you remove pesticides from rivers? ›

Carbon block water filters are extremely effective in filtering out a variety of contaminants including pesticides, THMs like chloroform, organic chemicals, and many VOCs that are components of gasoline, solvents and industrial cleaners.

How do pesticides get into lakes? ›

Movement in runoff water occurs when soluble or insoluble pesticides move from the application site across the soil surface, either dissolved or suspended in runoff waters. Pesticides dissolved or suspended in runoff water may quickly reach surface waters such as lakes, streams and rivers.

What effect do pesticides have on soil and water? ›

Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation. In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants.

What is the most common pesticide in water? ›

The most significant occurrences of groundwater well contamination have been with carbamate pesticides. Aldicarb - one of the most common carbamate pesticides and one which has been detected in many wells - is used on potatoes.

How do you test for pesticides in water? ›

warfare agents in water

Such technologies include enzymatic test kits, which are generally designed to be handheld and portable. These kits can detect the presence of chemical agents, carbamate pesticides, and/or organophosphate pesticides through a cholinesterase enzyme reaction.

Does rain wash away pesticides? ›

Generally, rain immediately after application removes much of the pesticide. The longer the time before precipitation, it is more likely that the pesticide will remain on the plant surface or will be absorbed into the tissue.

How long do pesticides stay in the environment? ›

Under most situations we would encounter in an agricultural setting, a pesticide half-life can range from a few hours to 4-5 years. Most pesticides are broken down by microbes in the soil, so environmental conditions that reduce microbial activity (cold, dry conditions) will extend pesticide remaining in the soil.

How long does it take for pesticides to dissipate? ›

A typical pest control application will last around 90 days. If outdoor applications see consistent or heavy rainfall, they efficacy may be affected and will last about 60 days. Pesticides used to treat flying insects like mosquitoes or flies will last around 30 days.

Does runoff contaminate water? ›

Runoff picks up fertilizer, oil, pesticides, dirt, bacteria and other pollutants as it makes its way through storm drains and ditches - untreated - to our streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean. Polluted runoff is one of the greatest threats to clean water in the U.S.

What are two negative effects of runoff? ›

Uncontrolled stormwater runoff has many cumulative impacts on humans and the environment including:
  • Flooding - Damage to public and private property.
  • Eroded Streambanks - Sediment clogs waterways, fills lakes, reservoirs, kills fish and aquatic animals.
  • Widened Stream Channels - Loss of valuable property.

How is runoff water harmful? ›

Runoff from agricultural land (and even our own yards) can carry excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus into streams, lakes, and groundwater supplies. These excess nutrients have the potential to degrade water quality.

Does water wash away insecticide? ›

While the heavy daily rain Houston sometimes receives won't wash pesticides away, it can dilute them to some degree. However, many pesticides take effect immediately on contact so, their impact may not be affected to a measurable extent. So, to sum it up, typically a light shower won't wash away treatments.

Should you water lawn after pesticide? ›

Watering-in recommendations are the same for insecticides. Although Acelepryn® and Meridian® 25WG insecticides are more forgiving than most insecticides when they are not watered in within 24 hours, it's still recommended that they are watered in.

How does pesticides get into water? ›

Pesticides can reach water-bearing aquifers below ground from applications onto crop fields, seepage of contaminated surface water, accidental spills and leaks, improper disposal, and even through injection waste material into wells.

How do you remove chemical toxins from water? ›

How do I remove contaminants from drinking water?
  1. Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems.
  2. UV water purifiers.
  3. Water softeners.
  4. Distillers.
  5. Ceramic filters.
  6. Ultrafiltration systems.
Mar 25, 2022

How do pesticides get in drinking water? ›

How do pesticides get into drinking water supplies? When pesticides are spilled, disposed of, or applied on the soil, some amount can be carried into the surrounding surface water or groundwater. These products move with the water, and can eventually enter into nearby drinking water wells, or surface water intakes.

How do you remove chemicals from water naturally? ›

The simplest method to purify water is to boil it for a good time. High temperatures cause the bacteria and virus to dissipate, removing all impurities from the water. In doing so, chemical additions cease to exist in the water.

How do pesticides in water affect humans? ›

DO PESTICIDES AFFECT PEOPLE AT LEVELS SOMETIMES FOUND IN DRINKING WATER? After prolonged exposure to high doses, some pesticides can cause cancer; some can also result in birth defects and damage to the nervous system (see page 12 for more information on the health effects of pesticides).

How do pesticides end up in aquatic ecosystems? ›

Pesticides typically enter a waterbody through surface water runoff, often from a farm field or from neighborhoods where they are applied on lawns.

What is the impact of water quality on pesticide performance? ›

Poor water quality can significantly reduce the efficacy of many pesticide products. Applicators should always test their water for turbidity, pH and hardness prior to using a pesticide mixture. to use water sources with pH levels greater than 8.0 and/ or hardness ratings greater than 150 ppm.

What happens when pesticides get into the water? ›

When pesticides are found in water supplies, they normally are not present in high enough concentrations to cause acute health effects such as chemical burns, nausea, or convulsions. Acute effects are those which show up soon after exposure and are likely to be relatively severe.

How would pesticides get into water used for aquaculture? ›

Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used to kill agricultural pests. These chemicals can enter and contaminate water through direct application, runoff, and atmospheric deposition.

Is it safe to drink water with pesticides? ›

In the case of a pesticide spill or misapplication near a well, the levels of pesticides in drinking water may reach high enough levels to cause immediate health problems, such as damage to the nervous system (see page 12 for more information on the health effects of pesticides).

How much water is contaminated by pesticides? ›

Studies of major rivers and streams find that 90% of fish, 100% of surface water samples, and 41% of major aquifers contain one or more pesticides at detectable levels. As a result of pesticide contamination of streams, rivers, lakes, and underground water supplies, drinking water is also widely contaminated.

What are the effects of pesticide runoff? ›

Pesticide runoff to streams can pose risks to aquatic life, fish-eating wildlife, and drinking water supplies. Pollutants from agricultural operations can also enter groundwater and degrade sources of drinking water.

How can we reduce the impact of pesticides in the aquatic environment? ›

Mix pesticides, clean equipment and rinse containers in an area where pesticides and rinse water cannot enter sewers or storm drains. Keep pesticides out of waters and areas near waters. Minimize potential harm to birds, beneficial insects, and fish by using pesticides only when necessary.

How does agricultural runoff affect water quality? ›

How does agricultural land-use affect water quality? Rainwater, snowmelt, and irrigation runoff carries manure, polluted sediment, bacteria, and chemicals into water. Leaky manure lagoons, over-application of nitrates, nutrients, and chemicals from manure pollutes groundwater.

How do fertilizers and pesticides affect our water supply? ›

Agricultural contaminants can impair the quality of surface water and groundwater. Fertilizers and pesticides don't remain stationary on the landscape where they are applied; runoff and infiltration transport these contaminants into local streams, rives, and groundwater.

How do you remove pesticides from water treatment? ›

One of the best ways to remove 97-99% of all pesticides, insecticides and herbicides from drinking water is with a reverse osmosis that incorporates activated carbon filters.

Does tap water remove pesticides? ›

Data presented in this study show that a short rinse in tap water reduces pesticide residues on many types of produce (Table 1). Residues of vinclozolin, bifenthrin and chlorpyrifos were not reduced.


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