Pesticides remain important to agriculture as a way to help prevent loss and ensure stable and steady supplies of food and fibers. In recent years, a study published by the United States Geological Survey measured the concentration of pesticides in U.S. streams and rivers. The study examined water from urban and rural water supplies from 1992 to 2011 and found fewer concentrations of pesticides that are harmful to humans.
Researchers took samples from more than 200 points along rivers and streams throughout the U.S. In 2001, 17 percent of all rivers tested had levels of pesticides deemed too high for human compared to results from 2011 where only one river had too-high levels of pesticides. Researchers credit these decreases to shifts in pesticide use patterns, regulatory changes, and the introduction of new pesticides, many of which have less toxic active ingredients and require less frequent applications.
As an example, U.S. cotton growers have reduced their pesticide applications by 50 percent since 1996; according to 2011 study by M.R. Williams, and technology continues to help growers of all commodities strike a balance between crop and environmental protection and productivity.