Industry best practice manual for water quality management and sterilisation on-farm

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Pesticide treatment

Performance goal: Minimise pesticide contamination in drinking water.
Description: Pesticides can be classed as either inorganic (do not contain carbon) or organic (contain carbon).

Performance criteria should only be used for guidance, as general values are from the European Drinking Water Directive (DWI, 2010).

Specific pesticides can have highly variable guideline health values. For further information on guideline health values for specific pesticides, please refer to the ADWG.
Performance criteria: Pesticide contamination is controlled.

If pesticide contamination is detected or suspected:

Best practice levels: individual pesticides 0–0.1μg/L, total pesticides 0–0.5μg/L

Maximum acceptable levels: individual pesticides 0.1μg/L, total pesticides 0.5μg/L
Minimum requirements
If pesticide contamination is detected or suspected:
  • Test for pesticides to determine concentrations.
  • Monitor them monthly until the contamination is controlled.
  • If pesticide contamination not detected monitor annually.
  • Treatment to reduce concentrations to acceptable levels:
  • Most pesticides are hydrophobic and easily removed by adsorption on activated carbon filters.
  • Organic pesticides can be broken down by disinfectants (the effectiveness depends on the type of pesticide and the disinfectant used)
  • Reverse osmosis can remove both inorganic and organic pesticides.

  • See Table 18 (below) for a comparison of the effectiveness of pre-treatments against pesticides.
    Pesticide use on the farm:
  • Pesticide manufacturer’s recommendations should be followed for pest control and bird treatment.
  • Ensure that pesticides used on the farm cannot contaminate drinking water.
  • Best practice options
    If pesticide contamination is detected, investigate other common inorganic compounds used in pesticides, including: antimony, arsenic, copper, cadmium, and chromium.
    Protect water sources from pesticide runoff.

    Table 18. Effectiveness of pre-treatments against pesticides

    Effectiveness against pesticidesPesticides
    PP filter
    Ceramic filter
    Pleated filter
    Rapid sand filters
    Semi-rapid sand filters
    Slow sand filtersL
    Centrifugal filtration
    Ion-exchange resins
    Chemical coagulatesL
    Lime softening
    Chemical oxidationLM
    Reverse osmosisH
    Electrodialysis reversalL
    Capacitive deionisationL
    Membrane capacitive deionisationL
    Electronic water conditioning
    L: low, LM: low to moderate, M: moderate, MH: moderate to high, H: high, –: N/A
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