Conservation tillage is projected to be the major soil protection method and candidate best management practice for improving surface water quality. Environmental and health implications as well as the agronomic virtues of conservation tillage must be identified and evaluated. A conceptual framework--mass balance approach--is developed identifying those system variables influenced by conservation tillage. A qualitative assessment is then made of the impact, mainly offsite in nature, of conservation tillage on the various exposure pathways of pesticides to human and aquatic ecosystems. Results from such an analysis suggest an increased potential for atmospheric losses of pesticides, a decrease in runoff and soil-erosion-related losses, but an increase in plant-residue-associated erosion as well as increased potential leaching through the unsaturated zone to groundwater. Major concerns, therefore, focus on the quantitative tradeoffs between runoff losses in water, leaching losses to groundwater, and enhanced atmospheric releases. Literature reviews, in general, substantiated the above speculations as to the impact of conservation tillage on soil properties, processes, and activities, and on pesticide transport and transformation.