In 2020, Belgian groundwater contained 25.6 milligrams of nitrogen in the form of nitrates per litre of water. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must be reduced. Between 2000 and 2020, the trend is undetermined (assessment of April 2023).
Nitrates in groundwater - Belgium and international comparison
milligrams NO3-N per litre
|//: Average Growth Rates|
EEA (2022), Nutrients in freshwater in Europe (CSI 020/WAT 003), direct communication 25/05/2022.
Definition: the average nitrate concentration in groundwater is calculated on the basis of 20 monitoring points located throughout Belgium. It is expressed as the nitrogen weight in those nitrates per liter of water (mg NO3-N/l). The data come from the European Environment Agency. The European data are given for 14 countries of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
Goal: the average nitrate concentration in groundwater must be reduced.
The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 6.3: “By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally”.
The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development contains objective 35: “Emissions of pollutants will be significantly reduced and air (indoor and outdoor), water and soil pollution will no longer have a significant – direct or indirect – impact, neither on health nor on the environment” (Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).
International comparison: the average nitrate concentration in groundwater in Belgium is well above the European average, which remains relatively stable. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with the worst performance in 2020. In that year, Spain ranked last with 56.2mg NO3-N/l and Finland ranked first with 0.3mg NO3-N/l.
UN indicator: the selected indicator does not correspond to any SDG indicator, but is related to target 6.3. The nitrate concentration in groundwater is an indicator illustrating the pollution of groundwater.
SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals: United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, document A/RES/70/1.
Indicators: United Nations (2017), Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, document A/RES/71/313.
UN Sustainable Development: https://sdgs.un.org/ (consulted on 18/01/2023).