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WATER RESOURCES » NITRATE POLLUTION
NITRATE POLLUTION
 Nitrates related pollution is caused through the introduction of excessive amounts of nitrogen to surface and ground waters, mainly as a result of agricultural practices
 

Excessive accumulation of oxidized nitrogen in the form of nitrates may result in high concentrations of nitrates in the groundwater, which in some cases may exceed the 50 mg/l limit for water consumption. Due to the cumulative character of nitrates in groundwater, concentrations higher than 25 mg/l should be treated with concern, calling for preventive actions. In surface waters, particularly lakes and closed gulfs, excessive accumulation of nitrogen as well as phosphorus may lead to eutrophication, with adverse impact, due the proliferation of algae and their byproducts, on fish, oxygen levels and amenity value.

Agriculture is, on an EU level, the largest single source of nitrate (runoff, leaching) pollution, although households and industries also contribute to some extent. As a consequence, the nitrate pollution problem is addressed within the European Union mainly by the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC), regarding nitrate pollution caused by agricultural practices, supplemented by the provisions of the Urban Wastewaters Directive (91/271/EC), related to sensitive recipients and the Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC). An important provision of the Nitrates Directive is the obligation of Member States to report every 4 years on the monitoring results of ground and surface water quality. Furthermore, Member States are compelled to designate so-called Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs).

 

According to the requirements of the Directive 91/676/EEC (transposed into national legislation with JMD 161890/1335/1997), seven vulnerable zones, with respect to nitrogen pollution from agricultural run-offs, have been identified in Greece and respective suitable action programs have been employed, according to art.5 of the Directive. The adoption of sound agricultural practices, obligatory for all farmers operating in a vulnerable zone, is a key element these programs.

Links
European Commission -Implementation of nitrates Directive

World Health Organisation - Eutrophication and Health

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