Removing nitrates in water : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

How can I remove nitrates from my water? Is there any method available to homesteaders?

-- Faith E. Battels (, January 10, 2000


Faith, around these parts there are still reports now and then of people boiling water to mix up baby formula. Result=dead baby. If the nitrate/nitrite problem is bad enough, there might not be anything even the pros can do for an affordable cost. BUT just how bad is your nitrate problem? If you are in the US, contact your county extension office, the nearest land grant university (Moo U), even your local library may have information on the problem. Ask at the front desk. Although I am reading your addy as bookmobile?

Without knowing just how bad your water is, and just how much you plan on treating, it is kinda hard to know what to say. Since boiling concentrates the nitrates/nitrites, steam distillation comes to mind. If you're just looking at cleaning up a bit of drinking water, check into the various pitchers and faucet screw-on filters. I don't know which ones might work. You can have larger filters plumbed into your system feeding either the entire house or selected pipes (ie the kitchen and bathroom sinks get treated water, the toilet doesn't). Reverse osmosis might work, but depending on the system, you waste one to five gallons of water for every gallon you get.

On the other hand, if you irrigate your garden, the corn and leaf crops will get a boost. If the nitrates are high enough and you buy fertilizer, buy something low in nitroegen. (Fertilizer is sold with various levels of the 3 basics N P K. You'd want something like 0-10-10 instead of 10-10-10. Really avoid any fertilizer with a high N rating.)

You may have to buy bottled water for certain uses. Be especially careful using the water for infants. I would include infant anmials in that warning, even though typically people don't bother to boil their formula or drinking water. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (, January 10, 2000.

High nitrates in the well water is avery common problem in the northern corn beltwhere we live. We had extremely high nitrates in our well test when we moved here in 1994, which we were able to remove with a reverse osmosis filter. The filter was expensive and wasted a lot of water compared to how much was filtered. We decided to drink only bottled water because we had A nursing baby and another baby due. we felt safer not risking the possibility of the filter needing to be replaced before we knew. Nitrates at high levels causes " blue baby syndrome" because the nitrogen inhibits the oxygenation of the blood. we drilled a new well 181' deep last year only to have hydrogen sulfide ( rotten egg smell!) as a new problem. This was easily eliminated with a activated charcoal filter, but that was an added expense.You sure would think that agri biz farming would smell the cofee about all the poisons in our water systems. It is getting hard to find good clean water in the midwest without filtering.

-- m dorsch (, January 10, 2000.

Oh yeah, I wanted to add that we have lambed out an average of 20 ewes , kidded goats and raised pigs , chickens, bottle calves, and rabbits, puppies and kittens on the nitrate water with no visible side effects. We have always had plenty of twins and triplets in the barn and we drink the goats milk with no ill effects towars us. The livestock seems to be able to cope with it at the level our well is contaminated

-- m dorsch (, January 10, 2000.

To quote a wise cree saying [only when the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned, the last fish caught, will we recognize that one cannot eat money!].

-- kathy h (, January 10, 2000.

My understanding is that reverse osmosis or distillation may be required to remove nitrates from the water, but that activated carbon filtration might (according to some sources that I have read) remove some. I am a bit suspicious of the claims of activated carbon removing it, though. Reverse osmosis wastes lots of water, as previously mentioned, and distillation uses lots of energy. We live in a farm area, and our 140+ foot deep well tests higher and higher for nitrates every few years. We drink bottled water, reverse osmosis processed, that is 39 cents a gallon at the local grocery stores (in our own jugs). I did some cost comparisons of getting our own reverse osmosis unit, and the cost of operation, equipment, filters, replacing membranes, etc., came close to what we pay for the water. So, we just buy lots of jugs of water when we make our trips to the grocery store. I am setting up an activated charcoal filter to one faucet at the kitchen sink, and will get the water tested from it and compare the test to the unfiltered water, but it will be a while before I get it done.

-- Jim (, January 11, 2000.

I personally wouldn't go to all the hassle and expense of distilling or reverse osmosis. (and I'm pretty sure that charcoal filters and other sink mounted filters aren't going to do you any good.

I'd either buy bottled water for cooking and drinking, or, preferably, fill up bottles at one of my friends' houses who has good water. Matter of fact, my son comes over here every week or so to fill up, because the place he is caretaking has water of extremely questionable quality. Believe it or not, the owner has diverted the road ditch down his well, in an attempt to have a bit more water!

The max concentration allowed by the feds is 10 mg/liter for nitrate, by the way, and there are lots of wells which have more than that, mostly caused by excessive fertilizer application.

-- jumpoff joe (, January 11, 2000.


The answer above that talks of reverse osmosis (R/O) is correct. I am a licensed water treatment operator with over 20 years dealing with all kinds of water quality issues. You can use distillation but then you end up with very pure water that can take minerals out of your system and cause other problems. R/O or ion exchange is the recommended treatment techniques. They are both more costly than other types of treatment but for a small system they are very managable. They both have a waste by-product that will need to be dealt with so it depends on your water system and how much nitrates are in your water. Feel free to contact me for any specifics or questions you may have.


-- Chris K. (, December 22, 2000.

I have been working in the water treatment field for some time. It amazes me how little people know about the water that they put into their bodies. All water has some nitrates in it - even rural or municipal water supplies - unless it is treated to remove nitrates. Based on my experience the best possible way to achieve this is by use of Reverse Osmosis. I read on this site where someone has stated that activated carbon/charcoal will remove nitrates from the water....that couldn't be more wrong. Activated carbon/charcoal only removes taste and odor causing contaminants. Come on people - get informed! There is R.O. equipment on the market that does not have a high rejection rate - and is fairly reasonable in price as compared to buying bottled water at a store. The equipment I have can be rented for under $25 a month - gives you up to 50 gallons a day - and has a rejection rate of one gallon for every gallon produced. Two filters are changed once a year - and the membrane can last from 3 to 10 years depending on what type of water it has to treat. What costs you more....and R.O. - or cancer treatments?

-- Renee' E. Long (, April 04, 2001.

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