The Pesticide Stewardship Partnership program began as a pilot project in Hood River, Oregon in 2000 after current use pesticides were found to exceed water quality standards. Rather than take a regulatory approach under the Clean Water Act to address this problem, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) partnered with local agricultural growers and watershed groups on a voluntary and collaborative new approach.
Under the PSP program, DEQ shares water quality monitoring results early and often with local communities and interested stakeholders, explains the data in relation to water quality criteria or benchmarks, engages pesticide users to identify and implement solutions, and uses long-term monitoring to measure success and provide feedback. This iterative approach relies on the significant resources and commitments, collaboration, communication, and cooperation of PSP partners. They include local watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts, growers groups, chemical distributors, and the Oregon State University Extension Service. In addition, DEQ and the Oregon Department of Agriculture work with many of the same partners to conduct voluntary pesticide waste collection events in watersheds where PSP projects are active, as well as in other areas of the state. The purpose of these events is to reduce the risk of accidental releases of unwanted pesticides into surface or groundwater and to provide a cost-effective disposal option for pesticide users.
Results to Date:
Landowners and applicators have noticeably improved pesticide application and pest management practices. The practices have been successful in reducing pollution from current use pesticides, and are producing measureable environmental results. Two early pilot projects showed substantial improvements in concentrations of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in the Hood River and Mill Creek. Since 2005, partnership projects in multiple watersheds have led to significant reductions in stream concentrations of malathion, chlorpyrifos, and the herbicide diuron. In 2013, the Oregon Legislature noticed what the program had accomplished using primarily grant funds, and with support from the Governor and a broad spectrum of stakeholders, the legislature provided resources to continue the program and expand it to new areas throughout the state. This innovative, voluntary, data-based decision making approach remains DEQ’s chosen path to pesticide contaminant reduction in Oregon. It is central to achieving the goals outlined in Oregon’s Water Quality Pesticide Management Plan implemented by DEQ and the state Departments of Agriculture and Forestry and the Oregon Health Authority. Moreover, DEQ and U.S. EPA support the PSP program as an alternative to developing a Total Maximum Daily Load in basins that exceed water quality standards for pesticides.
Below is a graph demonstrating the decrease in the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos over time at one site in the Hood River PSP Basin. In the first year of PSP monitoring, the average chlorpyrifos concentration (purple bar) was greater than both the acute and chronic statewide water quality standards (horizontal solid and dashed lines, respectively). Within five years, the chlorpyrifos concentrations fell below the water quality standards and they remain low. The rapid response in water quality is attributed to obtaining and sharing high quality data which highlighted the priority chemicals and problematic areas. Resources and expertise, which already existed, were tailored to a local solution. From this pilot basin, the PSP model has been replicated around the state.
Agency Toxics Coordinator
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality