This article deals with prospective and retrospective ecological risk assessment (ERA) procedures for pesticides in surface waters as carried out under European legislation (Regulation 1107/2009/EC; Directive 2009/128/EC; Directive 2000/60/EC). Priorities to improve the aquatic risk assessment and management of pesticides are discussed on basis of the following 5 theses: 1) the management of the environmental risks of pesticides in surface water requires an appropriate implementation of feedback mechanisms between prospective and retrospective ERA, 2) an appropriate ERA cannot be carried out without well-defined specific protection goals, described in terms of focal vulnerable populations and related exposure assessment goals, 3) the interaction between the assessment of exposure and eco(toxico)logical effects in ERA is at a lower level of sophistication than either assessment of exposure or assessment of effects in the field, 4) there is insufficient experimental proof that, in prospective ERA, the chronic effect assessment procedures accurately predict long-term population- and community-level impacts, and 5) multiple stress by pesticides in aquatic ecosystems cannot be ignored in ERA, but in individual water bodies, toxicity usually is dominated by a limited number of substances. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2013;9:e64–e74.
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