Nitrates

The pollution of groundwater and surface waters by liquid manure from agriculture and the associated nitrate pollution in Germany is very high. Because no adequate countermeasures or fertiliser bans are in place, the European Commission has now taken Germany to court. High daily fines are threatened.

The limit value for nitrate in drinking water is 50 mg per litre according to the Drinking Water Ordinance (TrinkWV). However, checks revealed significant exceedances at about 15-20 percent of the monitoring stations, especially in regions with intensive livestock farming such as Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

Nitrates are easily water-soluble salts and esters of nitric acid and play an important role as nutrients for plants. However, too much nitrate in the water leads to over-fertilisation and, as a result, to plant or algae growth, which can upset the biological balance. For humans, nitrate in drinking water in small quantities below the limit value of 50mg per litre is basically harmless, but infants and small children are at risk if they drink water containing too much nitrate.

Activated carbon block filters cannot filter nitrate, but nitrate is not a cause for concern within the specified limits. The majority of the substances nitrate, nitrite and nitrosamines are ingested through many foods.