Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 24, pp 24368–24378 | Cite as

Herbicides in river water across the northeastern Italy: occurrence and spatial patterns of glyphosate, aminomethylphosphonic acid, and glufosinate ammonium

  • Mauro Masiol
  • Biagio Giannì
  • Marco Prete
Research Article


Glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium are the active ingredients of commonly used herbicides. Active agricultural lands extend over a large part of the Veneto region (Eastern Po Valley, Italy) and glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium are widely used. Consequently, surface waters can be potentially contaminated. This study investigates the occurrence of glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium as well as aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA, the degradation product of glyphosate) in river water of Veneto. Eighty-six samples were collected in 2015 at multiple sampling points across the region. Samples were analyzed for the two target herbicides, AMPA as well as for other variables, including water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, hardness, BOD, COD, inorganic ions, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total suspended solids, arsenic, and lead. The average concentrations (all samples) were 0.17, 0.18, and 0.10 μg L−1 for glyphosate, AMPA, and glufosinate ammonium, respectively. The European upper tolerable level for pesticides (annual average 0.1 μg L−1) was often exceeded. Chemometric analysis was therefore applied to (i) investigate the relationships among water pollutants, (ii) detect the potential sources of water contamination, (iii) assess the effective water pollution of rivers by identifying river basins with anomalous pollution levels, and (iv) assess the spatial variability of detected sources. Factor analysis identified four factors interpreted as potential sources and processes (use of herbicides, leaching of fertilizers, urban/industrial discharges, and the biological activity on polluted or stagnant waters). A discriminant analysis revealed that the pollution from anthropogenic discharges is homogeneously present in surface water of Veneto, while biological activity and fertilizers present heterogeneous distributions. This study gives insights into the concentrations of herbicides in rivers flowing through a wide region that has heavy use of these chemicals in agriculture. The study also points out some hot-spots and suggests the future implementation of the current monitoring protocols and network.


Rivers Herbicides Glyphosate Glufosinate ammonium Aminomethylphosphonic acid Veneto 



The authors gratefully acknowledge ARPAV for providing the data.

Compliance with ethical standards


The views and the conclusion expressed in this paper are exclusive of the authors and may not reflect those of ARPAV. This study is not intended to replace any official report and/or data released by ARPAV; these latter data should be considered as a reference for administrative and regulatory purposes.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_2511_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.4 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1472 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Dipartimento Regionale LaboratoriAgenzia Regionale per la Prevenzione e Protezione Ambientale del Veneto (ARPAV)TrevisoItaly

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