For a number of years, the Compagnie Générale des Eaux has been studying pesticide contamination of surface water in order to better understand the origins and the main transfer mechanisms of these pollutants into water resources. Sampling campaigns are being carried out on the three main rivers of the Paris area to monitor a number of products from the triazine and urea families.
This monitoring has confirmed the extension of agricultural non-point source pollution. The products being sought are present in the three rivers and, in most cases, in significant concentrations.
Atrazine is the most important contaminant. Measured concentrations exceed the value of 100 ng/l most of the time, thus proving that the aquifers drained by the three rivers are contaminated. For a period of several months every year, concentrations approaching 1000 ng/l are observed in all the catchment areas being studied. These are the result of rapid transfers of atrazine in run-off water.
This surface run-off transfer mode also seems to be applicable to the ureas found in surface water, especially during the periods when the products are used to treat crops.
These works underline the complexity of agricultural non-point source pollution phenomena. They permit the identification of the predominant mechanisms operating in the transfer of the products. This is the first step towards setting up preventive measures and developing pollution forecasting tools.