Current-use insecticides, phosphates and suspended solids in the Lourens River, Western Cape, during the first rainfall event of the wet season
Pesticide contamination resulting from agricultural runoff depends on the time period between application and rainfall. In Western Cape orchard areas, the last pesticide application of the growing season in summer take place at the end of February. Pesticides, total phosphates and total suspended solids (TSS) were measured in the Lourens River at the beginning of April 1999 priod to the first rainfall of the rainy season and in the middle of April during high discharge following the first rainfall of 9.6 mm/d. Pre-runoff samples indicated only contamination with total endosulfan (α, β, sulphate) at levels up to 0.06 μg/L. Runoff during the first rainfall event resulted in an increase in the levels of endosulfan, chlorpyrifos and azinphos-methyl, to 0.16, <0.01 and 0.38 μg/L, respectively, in water samples and 245, 344, and 244 μg/kg in suspended sediment. In terms of chemical load the single rainfall event caused a loss of 15.1 g/h endosulfan, 1.8 g/h chlorpyrifos and 20.5 g/h azinphos-methyl. The second rainfall event caused no measurable increase in pesticide levels, although the amount of rain was even higher (14.4 mm/d). Levels of both total phosphate and TSS were also increased during the first runoff event. Transient contamination levels execeeded the largest water quality range proposed by the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). The Lourens River site downstream of the farming area is identified as a site where potentially toxic conditions might arise.