Ammonium in drinking water

What is ammonium?

The ammonium ion NH4 is a cation and it forms the conjugate acid to the base of ammonia. Ammonium and ammonia are in a balanced relation to each other. If the pH value in the water increases, the proportion of ammonia in relation to ammonium also increases. At the usual pH values ​​in drinking water and bathing water, only ammonium should be present.

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How does ammonium get into drinking water?

Ammonium is formed when bacteria degrade proteins.For example, during the decomposition of faeces, urine or animal waste.It is first converted by the bacteria into nitrite and afterwards into nitrate. This process is one of the most important tasks of wastewater treatment plants and is called nitrification. Ammonium as well as nitrate can get into the water through over-fertilization or through liquid manure or other animal decomposition products.

Ammonium content in drinking water – a health hazard?

For fish, an ammonium content of 0.5 mg/L is already alarming. This amount is still harmless to the human body. Nevertheless, the limit value for ammonium in drinking water according to the UK Drinking Water Ordinance is 0.5 mg/L.

Why should drinking water be tested for ammonium?

The limit value is set so low because an elevated value in drinking water is an indicator that it is contaminated by liquid manure, slurry or other animal decomposition products. Which is far more of a health concern than the ammonium itself.

If you want to make sure that there are no ammonium ions and other nitrogen compounds in your drinking water, get a water test kit and have your water analysed by an accredited laboratory.

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