Nitrates in river water

In 2017, Belgian rivers contained 3.18 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 1992 and 2015, the trend is favourable.

The chart will appear within this DIV.

Nitrates in river water - Belgium and international comparison

mg NO3-N/l

//: Average Growth Rates

Europe: 29 countries, see Description

EEA (2019), Nutrients in freshwater in Europe (CSI 020/WAT 003) - Draft Assessment, direct communication 24/10/2019.

Definition: the average nitrate concentration in river water is calculated on the basis of 28 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 relate to 18 countries: Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

Goal: the average nitrate concentration in river water 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 river water decreased in Belgium, while it remained relatively stable in Europe. However, the average concentration in Belgium is well above the European average. Only Denmark has higher average concentrations in 2017.

UN indicator: the selected indicator is related to indicator 6.3.1 - Proportion of wastewater safely treated. The nitrate concentration in river water is an indicator illustrating the efficiency of wastewater treatment.


More information is available in French and Dutch.