Rules Of Thumb About Nitrite and Nitrate

  1. In unpolluted, oxygenated surface waters, oxidized nitrogen is normally in the form of nitrate, with only trace amounts of nitrite.
  2. Measurable nitrite concentrations are more common in groundwater because of low oxygen concentrations in the soil’s subsurface.
  3. Nitrate and nitrite both leach readily from soils to surface waters and groundwater.
  4. High concentrations (>1-2 mg/L) of nitrate or nitrite in surface waters or groundwater generally indicate agricultural contamination from fertilizers and manure seepage.
  5. Greater than 10 mg/L of total nitrite and nitrate in drinking water is considered a human health hazard.


Eugene R. Weiner. Application of Environmental Aquatic Chemistry. A Practical Guide. Third edition. CRC Press

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