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Nitrates in Drinking Water: "Where do nitrates in drinking water come from?"

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We recently received the following question regarding nitrates in drinking water:

"Where do nitrates in drinking water come from and are they harmful?"

Typical sources of nitrate contamination include, but are in no way limited to, naturally occurring nitrate 'hot spots' in nature, agricultural runoff, industrial runoff and septic systems.

As for whether or not you should lose sleep over possible nitrate contamination of your drinking water, the answer is a firm MAYBE.

Generally speaking nitrate contamination poses the greatest risk to infants under six months of age and pregnant women. Neither should drink water that contains elevated levels of nitrates.

Nitrates in drinking water... How much is too much? The USEPA set the maximum contaminant level for nitrates in drinking water at 10 milligrams per liter, also stated as 10 parts per million (ppm).

How can you tell if your water contains nitrates? If present they will impart no smell, taste or discoloration so you will need to test for them using a certified water test from a company like National Testing Laboratories for verifiable results useful when selecting a water filtration system or a simple at-home dip and read test strip that will give a general results useful for performing a spot check on a water supply.

Interested in testing for nitrates in your drinking water? The following link will guide you to a page where you will find mail-in water test kits that include nitrate testing as well as home water testing products that include testing for nitrates.

Link to nitrates testing options:

Looking for filters to reduce the level of nitrates in your drinking water?

At this time a number of options exist including point of use filters (countertop and undersink models), point of entry water filters (whole house filters) and specialized filters like inline models for water dispensers and refrigerators.  A company called FilterWater.Com carries all of the above types of nitrate removal/reduction filters and has an excellent reputation for quality water filters and customer service.

WaterWorks Nitrate & Nitrite Test Strips