Approaches to herbicide (MCPA) pollution mitigation in drinking water source catchments using enhanced space and time monitoring

Freshwater occurrences of the selective acid herbicide 2-methyl-4-chloro-phenoxyacetic acid (MCPA) are an ongoing regulatory and financial issue for water utility industries as the number and magnitude of detections increase, particularly in surface water catchments. Assessments for mitigating pesticide pollution in catchments used as drinking water sources require a combination of catchment-based and water treatment solutions, but approaches are limited by a lack of empirical data. In this study, an enhanced spatial (11 locations) and temporal (7-hourly to daily sampling) monitoring approach was employed to address these issues in an exemplar surface water source catchment (384 km2). The spatial sampling revealed that MCPA was widespread, with occurrences above the 0.1 μg L−1 threshold for a single pesticide being highly positively correlated to sub-catchments with higher proportions of ‘Improved Grassland’ land use (r = 0.84). These data provide a strong foundation for targeting catchment-based mitigation solutions and also add to the debate on the ecosystems services provided by such catchments. Additionally, of the 999 temporal samples taken over 12 months from the catchment outlet, 25% were above the drinking water threshold of 0.1 μg L−1. This prevalence of high concentrations presents costly problems for source water treatment. Using these data, abstraction shutdowns were simulated for five scenarios using hydrometeorological data to explore the potential to avoid intake of high MCPA concentrations. The scenarios stopped abstraction for 4.2–9.3% of the April–October period and reduced intake of water containing over 0.1 μg L−1 of MCPA by 16–31%. This represents an important development for real-time proxy assessments for water abstraction in the absence of more direct pesticide monitoring data.
Publication history: Accepted - 30 September 2020; Published online - 8 October 2020
Water quality2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acidMCPAEnhanced monitoringDrinking waterIrish cross-border catchment
Morton, P. A., Cassidy, R., Floyd, S., Doody, D. G., McRoberts, W. C. and Jordan, P. (2020) ‘Approaches to herbicide (MCPA) pollution mitigation in drinking water source catchments using enhanced space and time monitoring’, Science of The Total Environment. Elsevier BV, p. 142827. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142827.