Nitrogen concentrations in rivers

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Assessment made on  01 Jan 2001

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Water Water (Primary theme)

DPSIR: State

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Policy issue:  Are nitrate concentrations in our rivers falling?

Figures

Key assessment

Total Oxidised Nitrogen (TON) levels in Europe's rivers have not fallen since 1990, with the smallest rivers showing the highest concentrations.

No progress has been made in reducing the concentration of nitrates in Europe's rivers, with levels remaining stable for all types of rivers throughout the 1990s.

The smaller the river, the higher the concentration, with levels in small rivers reaching and often exceeding the 5.6 mg/l guidelines set by the European Directive on Surface Water for Drinking. This probably reflects the impact of agriculture:

  • the data show that Denmark, a country with intensive agriculture and only small rivers, has the highest river nitrate levels;
  • data from five countries on river nitrate levels and agricultural land use in the rivers' catchment areas show a direct link, with small rivers in most agricultural catchment areas showing median concentrations above the Directive's limit.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100