As part of a continuing commitment to make pesticide information more accessible to the public, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation has released nine years of surface water monitoring data that may be downloaded from DPR's Web site or ordered on CD-ROM.

DPR's Surface Water Database includes details on more than 4,600 water monitoring samples collected by various agencies. The samples come from rivers, creeks, Delta waterways, agricultural drains, sloughs, and urban storm drains in 16 counties, dating from January 1991 to March 2000. While the database does not contain comprehensive information on every California waterway, it provides a unique research tool for scientists, regulators, environmental advocates, and others concerned with water quality issues.

"The information archived in our Surface Water Database has been available for years, but it was not easily accessible to the public," said DPR Director Paul E. Helliker. "We have a mandate to monitor the environmental impact of pesticides, but we also have a responsibility to share the data with the widest audience possible."

In the last two years, the Davis administration has approved $3 million to establish DPR's surface water program. As part of that program, DPR is using the database to identify and trace pesticides in surface water and develop prevention strategies. DPR previously has used surface water monitoring data to impose regulatory measures that successfully reduced rice herbicide runoff. Surface water monitoring also prompted a DPR program to reduce pesticide runoff from orchards sprayed in winter.

Since the database consists of studies that target pesticide residues in surface water, about two-thirds of the samples reveal some residues. As of July 15, the data documented detection of 86 pesticides and their breakdown products. However, the vast majority of detections have been below levels of health or water quality concern.

Online access to surface water data is part of a DPR initiative to make environmental data more accessible to the public. DPR received a $1 million budget augmentation this year for computer hardware that will enhance Web access to pesticide data. It is the first step in long-term plans to provide online, searchable databases for pesticide use reports, residue monitoring in fresh produce, ground and surface water data, and other technical documents such as pesticide risk assessments.

Under a 1997 agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board, DPR developed and maintains the Surface Water Database. It includes monitoring results from 30 studies conducted by local, state, and federal agencies, private industry, and an environmental group. The archive also includes toxicity test results for some aquatic organisms. To make the database as inclusive as possible, DPR characterizes each study for its data quality without making judgments on the usefulness of that data. Information is added on an ongoing basis, with priority given to the most recent data available.

A description of the database files and instructions on how to download them may be found at www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/surfwatr/surfdata.htm. The files also may be ordered from DPR on CD-ROM for $12 by sending payment to: Cashier, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, 830 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814-3510.

For more information about the data, e-mail Keith Starner at www.kstarner@cdpr.ca.gov, call him at (916) 324-4167, or fax (916) 324-4088.