Stormwater is a major driving factor of aquatic ecosystem degradation as well as one of the largest untapped urban freshwater resources. We present results from a long-term, multi-catchment study of urban stormwater pesticides across Australia that addresses this dichotomous identity (threat and resource), as well as dominant spatial and temporal patterns in stormwater pesticide composition. Of the 27 pesticides monitored, only 19 were detected in Australian stormwater, five of which (diuron, MCPA, 2,4-D, simazine, and triclopyr) were found in >50% of samples. Overall, stormwater pesticide concentrations were lower than reported in other countries (including the United States, Canada and Europe), and exceedances of public health and aquatic ecosystem standards were rare (<10% of samples). Spatio-temporal patterns were investigated with principal component analysis. Although stormwater pesticide composition was relatively stable across seasons and years, it varied significantly by catchment. Common pesticide associations appear to reflect 1) user application of common registered formulations containing characteristic suites of active ingredients, and 2) pesticide fate properties (e.g., environmental mobility and persistence). Importantly, catchment-specific occurrence patterns provide opportunities for focusing treatment approaches or stormwater harvesting strategies.

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Last updated: 9th May 2017