Founder’s Story: Patrick Holden

In 30th anniversary, all blog by admin

Founder's Story: Patrick Holden

May 23, 2023 | 30th anniversary |

In the 30th year of Waterborne Environmental – we’d like to look back on the history of our co-founder, Pat Holden, whose passion for environmental research established the research we still work on today.

Pat moved to a small farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, from Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of seven. Moving to a rural, predominantly agricultural county in the early 1960s had a profound impact on him. Then, at the prodding of his high school chemistry teacher, he read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which also left a lasting impression on him. These two pivotal events in Pat’s life sparked a passion for mitigation of environmental impacts from modern agriculture.

Immediately after undergraduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Pat spent a year studying agroecology at the University of California’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. He attended graduate school at the University of Arizona to study hydrology with a focus on agriculture’s impact on water quality.

While in graduate school, Pat worked with renowned hydrologist and mentor, Gray Wilson, to prepare a primer on water well sampling for volatile organic chemicals to be used by public health agencies in the U.S. Pat also prepared a contract report for the Board on Agriculture of the National Research Council on the status of pesticide occurrence in ground water in four states in the US. His responsibilities included identifying, contacting and conducting field interviews with relevant researchers working for state agencies or universities in California, Wisconsin, New York and Florida, as well as federal agencies and numerous agricultural chemical companies. This report was published by the National Academy Press in March 1986.

After graduate school, Pat worked with the Water Science and Technology Board to manage the National Research Council's (NRC) Committee on Irrigation-Induced Water Quality Problems and related subcommittees to advise the state of California and the U.S. Department of the Interior on environmental problems associated with irrigated agriculture in California’s Central Valley. His responsibilities included providing technical and administrative support to the committee and its subcommittees, preparing written materials and coordinating report production, conducting research on behalf of the committee, serving as a liaison with state and federal agencies and the U.S. Congress and budget management. He also participated in project development activities in the areas of contaminant transport models and western water markets.

Pat’s NRC report on pesticides in groundwater caught the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticides Programs (OPP) and he was subsequently hired to manage their groundwater section. The NRC report continues to be requested from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (and on Amazon) and cited to this day.

While working for OPP, Pat served as one of the technical advisors to the Agency's Ground-Water Task Force, headed by USEPA's Deputy Administrator. Mr. Holden also served on various committees sponsored by the National Agricultural Chemicals Association (former name of Crop Life America), US Geological Survey (USGS), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and environmental groups addressing agriculture and water quality issues.

In 1987, Pat and Marty Williams, Co-Founder of Waterborne, met while both working for the USEPA Pat and Marty founded Waterborne Environmental, 1993, and quickly established relationships with clients that have continued to this day. Initial work led by Pat included several multi-state groundwater monitoring studies for pesticides in rural wells. His responsibilities included providing training to state personnel regarding rural well selection and proper sampling methodology under USEPA Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) Standards.

He also served as the principal investigator for ten small-scale prospective ground-water monitoring studies and one small-scale retrospective ground-water study in Florida, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota. He has helped author numerous protocols, site characterization reports, and progress reports related to these studies.

As Waterborne grew, Pat dedicated much of his time to running the business.  He served as President from 1993 through 2007, and Chief Executive Officer until his retirement.  He will continue to serve on the Board of Directors of the Company.

On Monday, May 1, Waterborne employees gathered in the Leesburg office to celebrate Pat and his retirement. Waterborne has had a profound impact in the area of environmental science and product registration around the globe. Marty said at Pat’s retirement gathering, “On behalf of everyone at Waterborne, I’d like to celebrate Pat Holden’s dedication to science, environmental stewardship and for helping to launch the careers of many scientists and engineers. Thank you, Pat!”.

While letting go is difficult, Pat is also looking forward to more free time. In retirement, Pat intends to pursue passions related to hiking, fly fishing, beekeeping and sustainable agriculture.


National Research Council. 1986. Pesticides and Groundwater Quality: Issues and Problems in Four States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi:

Available on Amazon and from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine