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How to Remove Nitrates From Drinking Water? 

How to remove nitrates from drinking water naturally


The invisible substances such as nitrate lurking within your well water can affect you with its health effects. If you find yourself here, you’re likely one of the countless individuals seeking answers on how to remove nitrates from drinking water. It is a concern that has gained attention in recent years due to its potential health risks in the U.S.

Whether you’re a homeowner with a private well or simply someone who values nitrate-free drinking water, then, reverse osmosis and anion exchange are the most efficient methods that can remove 80-95% of nitrate from your well. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll be guiding the nitrate contamination in your water supply solutions to ensure the purity of the water you and your loved ones consume. Let’s discover the way!

What are Nitrates in Drinking Water?

Nitrate in drinking water is a chemical compound composed of nitrogen and oxygen. It is a naturally occurring substance that can be found in various forms of pollution. Nitrate is not dangerous at low concentrations. Still, its elevated levels are highly dangerous for individuals, especially pregnant women and children. 

Once nitrates infiltrate the soil, they can percolate down and contaminate groundwater, which is often used as a source of drinking water, particularly in rural areas. It can be exposed by both human sources and natural ways, such as settling in the atmosphere by precipitation, organic matter, or nitrogen-fixing bacteria can also contribute to the rise in nitrate levels in groundwater. 

How do Nitrates Get into the Water?

Common ways nitrates can contaminate water sources are as follows:

  • Agricultural and Industrial runoff
  • Livestock waste seeps into the groundwater, forming nitrates.
  • Poor septic systems can leak nitrates into the soil and groundwater.
  • Untreated sewage can add nitrates into water bodies. 
  • Nitrates can settle from the atmosphere through precipitation. 
  • Landfills and dump sites produce nitrates.

Safe Levels of Nitrate In Drinking Water

The safe levels of nitrate in drinking water are typically regulated and established by government agencies responsible for public health and environmental protection. The specific safe levels can vary from one country to another, but they are typically set to protect public health, especially infants and pregnant women.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recommended the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate in drinking water is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 10 parts per million (ppm)

This level protects you against the risk of methemoglobinemia, commonly known as “blue baby syndrome,” in infants under six months of age.

The World Health Organization recommends a guideline value of 50 mg/L (50 ppm) for nitrate in drinking water, which is usually higher than the U.S. MCL but still takes into account the protection of vulnerable populations. 

Health Effects of Nitrates in Drinking Water

Drinking nitrate-tainted water may increase the risk of public health issues, particularly for newborns, children, and pregnant women. The effects of nitrates in drinking water on humans are listed below.

1. Infants or Babies

The most dangerous aspect of nitrates in drinking water is their conversion to nitrites (NO2-) within the digestive system. It can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood and reduce the blood’s ability to transport oxygen. This condition, known as methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome,” can be especially harmful to infants and young children. 

Symptoms include bluish skin and shortness of breath, and, in severe cases, can lead to serious health problems or even death.

2. Pregnant Women and Nursing Mothers

Pregnant women should avoid high nitrate levels to protect their unborn children from the threats mentioned above. Like pregnant women, nursing mothers are not typically at increased risk of methemoglobinemia from nitrate exposure through drinking water.

However, they need to maintain a balanced diet and overall health, as their well-being can affect the quality of breast milk they provide to their infants. 

3. Adults 

For healthy adults, the risk of methemoglobinemia is relatively low. Adults have fully developed digestive systems and can efficiently metabolize nitrates, converting them to nitrites at a slower rate than infants.

According to WHO, high nitrate is likely carcinogenic in both adults and children. Further, the study is required to fully comprehend the drinking water problems containing tiny amounts of nitrates.

How to Remove Nitrates from Well Water

Several ways help to remove nitrate levels from your drinking water, such as

1. Test You Well Water For Nitrate Levels 

Firstly, It is important to ensure the water’s safety, especially in areas where nitrate contamination is high. Several methods can help to test for nitrate in drinking water, including testing kits and laboratory methods. 

Nitrate test strips are readily available at many stores and online retailers. To use them, you typically dip the test strip into a water sample and wait for a while until the color changes. Then, you can compare the color change on the strip with the given color chart to indicate the nitrate presence. 

You can also use a portable digital tester to provide more accurate and precise measurements compared to test strips.

Besides this, If you require highly accurate and reliable results or need to comply with regulatory requirements, we suggest you send your water samples to a certified laboratory for testing

The laboratory will use advanced analytical methods to determine the nitrate concentration in your water sample. Typically, this method is the most expensive and time-consuming but most accurate.

2. Take Short-Term Measures

Suppose your water has a nitrate level at or near the maximum recommendation. In that case, you can boil the water and dilute it with bottled or distilled water, which is also called blending of high-nitrate water with low-nitrate water. It is a short-term measure to prevent nitrate threat, which can be ideally used for drinking, washing, and cooking.

Doing this, you’ll get overall nitrate concentration to acceptable levels. For example, if your well water has nitrate up to 15 ppm, mixing the bottled water or distilled water can reduce its overall level by up to 7 ppm. 

We won’t suggest wasting time by boiling the water alone; it wouldn’t remove nitrates from the drinking water. Instead of removing nitrates, boiling can increase its concentration; the water will evaporate, leaving the nitrate water left behind.   

In addition to the above steps, skip using a typical filter like Brita and Pur, which are ineffective against nitrates and various other contaminants. Installing a proper treatment system is better than conventional filters. 

3. Installing a Water Treatment System for Nitrates

How to Remove Nitrates from Well Water

Anion exchange and reverse osmosis are the most efficient methods to remove nitrate from drinking water. 

I. Installing a Reverse Osmosis System

A reverse osmosis water filter is one of the best systems that can remove amoebas, lead, mercury, arsenic, fluoride, bacteria, viruses, and many others, including 98% nitrates.

Suppose your well water contains high levels of arsenic, such as 20 ppm; the RO filter can lower it up to 4 ppm. It has a semi-permeable membrane that is coated with small holes that function as a sieve, separating the clean and nitrate-free water.

A reverse osmosis system is available as a whole house system or can be installed under the sink and countertop styles according to your choice, ease, and reliability. The RO systems also have wide applications in restaurants, laboratories, and even industries like pharmaceuticals and electronics manufacturing.

The plus point is the RO system consists of pre-filters to remove sediment, chlorine, and other larger particles from the water, and post-filters enhance water quality by removing any residual taste or odor. 

It’s important to maintain it, including replacing filters and membranes periodically. More importantly, you need electricity to operate an RO system, which contributes to ongoing expenses. 

II. Opting for an Anion-Exchange

Many U.S. people use water softeners to remove water contamination, but it might be helpful for removing nitrates. Yes, but only the anion exchange water softeners work well to remove nitrates

Anion exchange is a common method for removing nitrates, lead, and various other heavy metals from water. In this process, the negatively charged ions (anions) in water, such as nitrates (NO3-), are exchanged on resin beads for other negatively charged ions present on a solid exchange material.

Anion exchange systems are typically installed as part of water treatment systems in a whole house or post-media after the reverse osmosis system. Its design can vary, but it usually involves a column or tank filled with the exchange resin. Water containing nitrates flows through the resin, and the nitrates are adsorbed onto the resin while other ions like chloride or hydroxide are released into the water. 

The resin becomes saturated with nitrates and needs regeneration periodically by flushing the bead with a brine solution. It will remove the saturated ions from the resin bead and restore its capacity to work thoroughly. 

4. Prevent Your Well Water From Nitrate Contamination

A few things can also help you to prevent your well water from nitrates, including regularly testing your well water for nitrate levels, ensuring the septic systems, livestock areas, or fertilized fields are located at a safe distance from your well, and maintaining them.  

You must ensure your well is sealed properly and the well is constructed far away from industries. 

You need to dispose of the house’s hazardous waste like paints, solvents, and motor oil through appropriate channels rather than allowing them to seep into the ground.

If you have livestock, manage their waste properly to prevent runoff into your well. Follow best practices for manure storage and disposal.

5. Inspecting You Well Regularly

Inspecting and maintaining a well for nitrate or any other contamination is crucial to ensure water safety. Before you begin inspecting and maintaining your well, it’s essential to understand what nitrate contamination is and how it can occur, as mentioned above. 

Nitrates can enter your well water from various sources, including agricultural runoff, septic systems, and fertilizers. High nitrate levels in drinking water can lead to health problems, so it’s essential to stay vigilant.

For inspecting, regular water testing is the first line of defense against nitrate contamination and ensures the potential sources of nitrates are a safe distance from your well. Most importantly, protect the wellhead to keep it secure and replace damaged covers immediately if needed.


In conclusion, protecting your well from nitrate contamination involves testing water quality, maintaining safe distances from potential contaminant sources, protecting the wellhead, and considering treatment options such as reverse osmosis and anion exchange. 

By following these steps and staying vigilant, you can ensure that your well water remains safe and free from nitrate contamination.

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