Updated: May 17, 2022
By Virginia Cooperative Extension

Nitrates in Household Water

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for all living things. Nitrogen present in the soil can be converted to nitrate (NO3 - ), which is water–soluble. Once nitrate is in solution it moves easily through the soil and into groundwater. The amount or concentration of nitrate in water is typically reported as either nitrate-nitrogen or nitrate-N (NO3 - -N), or as nitrate (NO3 - ). For public water systems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a primary drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for nitrogen when reported in the nitrate-N form (NO3 - -N) and 45 mg/L when reported in the nitrate form (NO3 - ).

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