An analytical framework on the leaching potential of veterinary pharmaceuticals: A case study for the Netherlands

Nikola Rakonjac*, Sjoerd E.A.T.M. van der Zee, Louise Wipfler, Erwin Roex, C.A.F. Urbina, Leen Hendrik Borgers, Coen J. Ritsema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Veterinary pharmaceuticals (VPs) residues may end up on the soil via manure, and from there can be transported to groundwater due to leaching. In this study an analytical framework to estimate the leaching potential of VPs at the national scale is presented. This approach takes soil-applied VPs concentrations, soil-hydraulic and soil-chemical properties, groundwater levels, sorption and degradation of VPs into account. For six commonly soil-applied VPs in the Netherlands, we assess quantities leached to groundwater and their spatial distribution, as well as the relative importance of processes that drive leaching. Our results for VPs Oxytetracycline, Doxycycline, and Ivermectin indicate that maximum quantities that may leach to groundwater are very low, i.e. ≪1 μg/ha, hence spatial differences are not investigated. For VPs Sulfadiazine and Flubendazole we identify a few regions that are potentially prone to leaching, with leached quantities higher than 1 μg/ha. Leaching patterns of these two VPs are dominated by soil properties and groundwater levels rather than soil-applied quantities. For Dexamethasone, even though applied on the soil in much lower concentrations compared to other investigated VPs, spatially widespread leaching to groundwater is found, with leached quantities higher than 1 μg/ha. Due to the leaching affinity of Dexamethasone, variations in the soil-applied amounts have significant influence on the quantities leached to groundwater. Dexamethasone is highlighted as important for the future environmental risk assessment efforts. This study has shown that the leaching potential of VPs is not determined by one single parameter, but by a combination of parameters. This combination also depends on the compound investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160310
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2023


  • Contaminants
  • Groundwater pollution
  • National scale model
  • Soil


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