Indicator Fact Sheet

Nitrogen concentrations in rivers

Indicator Fact Sheet
Prod-ID: IND-264-en
  Also known as:
This page was archived on 08 May 2015 with reason: Other (No set and old)

Assessment made on  01 Jan 2001

Generic metadata



DPSIR: State


Indicator codes

Policy issue:  Are nitrate concentrations in our rivers falling?


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.


Document Actions