PESTICIDE RESIDUES in surface water and groundwater are declining significantly, according to latest Environment Agency figures*.

During 2004 there was a 19% reduction in the number of surface water samples exceeding the 0.1 parts per billion standard for drinking water compared to the average for 1998-2002. In 2003, there was an 18% reduction, the figures showed.

Similar improvements have been detected in groundwater and the vast majority of samples are below the 0.1ppb limit, the EA said.

The improvement may be due to the phasing out of problem pesticides and to industry, farmers and the public improving how they use and dispose of pesticides, the EA suggests.

The findings were welcomed by the Voluntary Initiative’s Patrick Goldsworthy, who said it was even more pleasing given the wet weather in autumn 2004, which could have seen more pesticides washed into watercourses.

“In these circumstances it is an excellent result and reflects the efforts of all agronomists, trainers and operators who have supported the [Voluntary Initiative] H2OK? campaign.”

But he urges growers and sprayer operators to make sure they continue applying best practice to pesticide use.

“There are still many pesticide users – especially occasional users and local governments – who can and must do more to ensure pesticide levels in water sources are minimised.”

Information on minimising the environmental impacts of pesticides can be found at www.voluntaryinitiative.org.uk

*The EA has changed its methodology for assessing pesticides in surface water – under the old system there was a 23% cut in the number of samples exceeding 0.1ppb in 2003, compared with the average for 1998-2002. The 2005 results are expected in September.