Pesticides Water Pollution

Since the early 1990s, numerous studies documented toxicity in waterways throughout California, particularly in urban watersheds. This toxicity is almost exclusively caused by currently used pesticides. In the late 2000s, in response to the cessation of most urban uses of diazinon and chlorpyrifos in 2004, pyrethroid insecticides came to dominate the market—and to create a new type of toxicity in urban watersheds. Anticipating this change, the San Francisco Bay Water Board integrated a pesticide toxicity management strategy into its 2005
Urban Creeks diazinon TMDL.

In anticipation of this TMDL, TDC Environmental’s Dr. Moran joined with the San Francisco Bay Water Board, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, municipal stormwater management agencies and wastewater treatment plants to found the Urban Pesticides Pollution Prevention Project UP3 Project. The Project has grown into the Urban Pesticides Pollution Prevention Partnership (UP3 Partnership), which is staffed by Dr. Moran, providing scientific information to Federal and California pesticide regulators to support work towards the goal of eliminating pesticide-related water pollution in California. With Dr. Moran’s scientific information, this multi-agency collaboration (which today includes diverse partners across the state) has triggered landmark changes at both the state and Federal levels, including California regulations coupled with special restrictions placed on bifenthrin (the most environmentally persistent pyrethroid) that are together expected to reduce pyrethroid-caused toxicity by 80-90%.

Recent California monitoring data show rapidly increasing concentrations of other very highly toxic insecticides - fipronil and imidacloprid. These data are a reminder that additional work will be needed to end pesticide-related toxicity in urban watersheds, to prevent a transition to other harmful products, and to achieve the ultimate goal of ensuring that pesticides do not harm California’s aquatic ecosystems.

UP3 Partnership work has generated numerous publications available on the
publications page.

Dr. Moran has also worked with municipal wastewater treatment plants and source water protection programs (drinking water) to identify pesticide sources, evaluate pesticides monitoring data, and to provide scientific information used by government agencies to implement management strategies to protect water quality. Her scientific work in support of California municipal wastewater treatment plants triggered a statewide survey of pyrethroid insecticides in wastewater influent, effluent, and biosolids. The
survey, which was funded by pyrethroids manufacturers, was published in 2014. While at the City of Palo Alto, she led a successful legislative and regulatory effort to regulate copper-based root control products and tributyltin-containing pesticides to protect San Francisco Bay.
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