24 Dec

How Drinking Water Impacts the Nitrogen Cycle

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For what is believed to be the first time, scientists from the British Geological Survey and Lancaster University have better determined the degree to which the presence of nitrate, a variation of nitrogen with potentially harmful effects, impacts the public water supply of England.

And while England's public water infrastructure currently removes significant quantities of nitrogen, water that leaks from pipes may be a major source of nitrogen being transmitted into the environment.

In fact, researchers say, nitrogen levels in the lakes, groundwater, rivers, and soils of England has increased sharply over the last hundred or so years, mostly because people use inorganic forms of nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production in farming operations.

Nitrogen that leeches into aquatic environments as a result of these kinds of farming operations can create serious headaches, such as producing undesirable algae blooms.

The good news: Public drinking water systems are effectively reducing the amount of nitrogen released into the environment by removing it before it pours out of individual spigots.

Dr. Ben Surridge, from the Lancaster Environment Centre and co-author of the study, said in a press release, “Our research shows that the processes involved in supplying drinking water to the public can change the nitrogen cycle within aquatic ecosystems in ways that have not been recognised until now. For example, we calculate that the amount of nitrate removed through abstracting water may equal up to 40% of the nitrogen that has been estimated to be lost from aquatic environments through denitrification."

Still, more work needs to be done, as some nitrogen remains in drinking water after treatment, sometimes leaking out of pipes as it is pumped over long distances to thirsty customers.

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Read 2409 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 December 2018 03:45
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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