In the Netherlands, many of the fresh groundwater resources are vulnerable to pollution. Owing to high population densities and intensive farming practices, pesticide residues are found in groundwater at many places. Hence a number of drinking water abstraction wells contain pesticides residues, causing considerable costs for purification. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires countries to assess the chemical status of groundwater bodies and set up monitoring plans for groundwater quality, including pesticides. 771 groundwater samples were taken from monitoring wells in 2006 and analysed for a broad list of pesticides in order to fulfil these requirements. Pesticide were detected in 27% of samples, while in 11% the WFD limit of 0.1 μg/l was exceeded. In this paper, these and earlier measurements are evaluated further, considering also measurements in drinking water wells, information about the origin of measured pesticides and calculated trends in use and emissions. The measurements in the monitoring wells showed that where pesticides are used, 15–55% (minimal and maximal estimation) of the wells in shallow groundwater (1 to 20m below soil surface) contain pesticides residues at concentrations above 0.1 μg/l. When the metabolites BAM and AMPA are excluded (as not relevant in human toxicological terms), the estimation range is 7–37%. These patterns observed in shallow groundwater are reflected by the occurrence of pesticides in vulnerable abstraction wells that are used for the production of drinking water. The WFD requires the determination of both status and trends. The design of current monitoring network is evaluated from this perspective. Several recommendations are made for more adequate and efficient monitoring.

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