Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 821–834 | Cite as

Occurrence of glyphosate and acidic herbicides in select urban rivers and streams in Canada, 2007

  • Nancy E. Glozier
  • John StrugerEmail author
  • Allan J. Cessna
  • Melissa Gledhill
  • Myriam Rondeau
  • William R. Ernst
  • Mark A. Sekela
  • Steve J. Cagampan
  • Ed Sverko
  • Clair Murphy
  • Janine L. Murray
  • David B. Donald
Research Article



Public and scientific concern has grown over the last decade in Canada over the cosmetic use of pesticides in urban centers. With this in mind, a national survey was designed to monitor eight commonly used herbicides in urban rivers and streams across Canada.

Materials and methods

To coordinate sample collections across the country, samples were collected monthly on one of two predetermined dates from April to September, 2007 from 19 sites within 16 watersheds, including 15 sites downstream of urban lands and two reference sites. Water samples were also collected approximately three times from each watershed during or after precipitation events. All samples were collected using a common sampling protocol and all were analyzed using the same analytical laboratories.

Results and discussion

The herbicides 2,4-D, mecoprop, dicamba, glyphosate and its major metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) were most frequently detected. Using either herbicide concentrations upstream/downstream of urban centers or bromoxynil and clopyralid as indictors of agricultural inputs of herbicides to streams, it was clear that environmental concentrations of these herbicides downstream of urban areas were linked to urban use in Canada. Herbicide concentrations in streams draining urban areas were greater during or after significant rainfall events and, with the exception of glyphosate, were significantly greater in the Province of Ontario. Herbicide concentrations were not correlated to the proportion of the watersheds in urban land use. Also, there was no difference in seasonal patterns of herbicide concentrations across urban centers when grouped in five geographic areas. None of the herbicide concentrations measured exceeded existing Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the protection of aquatic life.


This is the first time a national survey of pesticides in urban rivers has been carried out in a consistent fashion across Canada. Concentrations of 2,4-D, mecoprop, dicamba, glyphosate, and AMPA were linked to urban use and frequently detected in all geographic areas. However, geographic differences in concentration suggested differences in usage or stream connectivity patterns among urban centers. Some jurisdictions in Canada have recently restricted cosmetic use of pesticides and it would be interesting to determine whether such restrictions will lead to reduced pesticide concentrations in urban streams.


Glyphosate Acid herbicides National survey Urban rivers Urban streams 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the sampling and analytical efforts by the staff of Environment Canada. We are also grateful for the GIS work and watershed delineation conducted by François Boudreault of Environment Canada. This monitoring project was funded by Environment Canada’s Pesticide Science Fund.

Supplementary material

11356_2011_600_MOESM1_ESM.doc (88 kb)
Fig. S1 Examples of river discharge for three rivers with distinct discharge regimes; 1 Highland Creek—frequent rainfall events with event discharge elevated well above base flow, 2 Bow River—a large river with mountain runoff dominated pattern with small impact of rain event on overall discharge, and 3 Swift Current Creek—a small river with infrequent and small rain events. Timing of water quality samples are indicated with an X; X EV indicates a sample classified as being obtained during an event (DOC 88.5 KB)
11356_2011_600_MOESM2_ESM.doc (105 kb)
Fig. S2 Principal component analysis of concentrations of 2,4-D, mecoprop, dicamba, AMPA, and glyphosate for 90 water samples collected from 15 urban rivers between April 2007 and September 2007. Vector arrows show the direction of increasing concentration for each herbicide. Samples with highest concentrations of 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba are located in the upper right quadrant; those with highest concentrations of AMPA and glyphosate, in the lower right quadrant. Expanded view (top) shows the spread of samples in the area with high sample overlap (DOC 105 kb)
11356_2011_600_MOESM3_ESM.doc (44 kb)
Table S1 Pesticide physical–chemical characteristics of some pesticides detected in Canadian rivers (DOC 44.5 KB\)
11356_2011_600_MOESM4_ESM.doc (96 kb)
Table S2 Water quality measurements during high discharge (June) and low discharge (September) sampling periods (DOC 96 kb)
11356_2011_600_MOESM5_ESM.doc (40 kb)
Table S3 Detailed summary statistics for urban specific site groupings or sample type (event vs. non-event). Guidelines are from CCME 1999 (DOC 40 kb)


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy E. Glozier
    • 1
  • John Struger
    • 2
    Email author
  • Allan J. Cessna
    • 3
    • 1
  • Melissa Gledhill
    • 4
  • Myriam Rondeau
    • 5
  • William R. Ernst
    • 6
  • Mark A. Sekela
    • 4
  • Steve J. Cagampan
    • 2
  • Ed Sverko
    • 2
  • Clair Murphy
    • 6
  • Janine L. Murray
    • 7
  • David B. Donald
    • 8
  1. 1.Water Science and Technology Directorate, Environment CanadaNational Hydrology Research CentreSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Water Science and Technology Directorate, Environment CanadaBurlingtonCanada
  3. 3.Agriculture and Agri-Food CanadaSaskatoonCanada
  4. 4.Water Science and Technology Directorate, Environment CanadaVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Water Science and Technology Directorate, Environment CanadaMontrealCanada
  6. 6.Water Science and Technology Directorate, Environment CanadaDartmouthCanada
  7. 7.Water Science and Technology Directorate, Environment CanadaOttawaCanada
  8. 8.Water Science and Technology Directorate, Environment CanadaReginaCanada

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