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Nitrate content in surface water and groundwater

Updated 22.2.2017

Nitrate content in groundwater has remained nearly unchanged, while it has increased slightly in surface water.

Nitrates in water courses come from fertilizers or the disintegration of nitrogen-containing substances, municipal wastewater and bog drainage.

Nitrogen is one of the primary plant nutrients that does not normally exist in water courses in high volumes. When a high volume of nitrogen is available, it is one cause of eutrophication.

The majority of nitrate exposure comes from natural sources: vegetables, fruit and tap water. Vegetable handling and good cultivation practices reduce the intake volume.

Generally speaking, nitrate content in Finnish surface water and groundwater is low compared to other European countries. In 2012–2015, the value of 50 mg/l of nitrate in groundwater was exceeded in four areas loaded by agriculture and forestry, while the content was mainly below 25 mg/l. Since 1996, nitrate content in surface water has mainly remained stable, and no heavily rising trends were identified in 2012–2015.

Nitrate content in groundwater

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Description of the indicator

The indicator measures changes in nitrate content in catchment areas. Nitrate (nitrate ion NO3) is a natural compound.

Information about nitrate content in water is obtained from the environmental administration system which includes information about the quality of water samples.

This indicator is one of the CAP impact indicators.

The indicator will next be updated in 2022.