Degradation of pesticides in aquifers has been evaluated based on a number of co-ordinated field and laboratory studies carried out in Danish aquifers. These studies included investigations of vertical and horizontal variability in degradation rates from the vadose zone to an aquifer, the effects of aerobic versus anaerobic conditions, and the importance of concentration on degradation kinetics for a selected range of herbicides. The studies were based on different experimental approaches ranging from simple batch experiments to column studies to field injection experiments and, where appropriate, results were compared. Some herbicides were degraded under aerobic conditions (some phenoxy acids, DNOC and glyphosate) and others under aerobic conditions (other phenoxy acids, DNOC; there was some indication of atrazine transformation). Certain pesticides were not degraded in any investigations (dichlobenil, the dichlobenil metabolite 2,6-dichlorobenzamide (BAM), bentazone, isoproturon, metarnitron and metsulfuron-methyl). The spatial variability was substantial, since hardly any of the investigated pesticides were degraded in all comparable samples. This means that it is very difficult to claim that a given pesticide is readily degradable in aquifers. However, the experimental approaches used (with incubations lasting more than a year) may not be sensitive enough to verify the low degradation rates that may be significant as a result of the long retention time of groundwaters. (C) 2001 Society of Chemical Industry.