Monitoring results of mineral nitrogen compounds in underground waters of Ukraine

Background, research objective and methodology. In Ukraine drinking water sources (surface waters, underground waters) have contaminated by mineral nitrogen forms (NO3-, NO2-, NH4+) in particular by nitrate (NO3-) due to the increasing pressure of human activities (e.g. synthetic fertilizer and animal manure applications) [1]. According to data of Ukrainian Institute of Agroecology and Biotechnology, 4.2 million (41 kg per ha) and 279 thousands (13 kg per ha) tones of mineral fertilizers were used in Ukraine in 1990 and 2000, respectively [2]. The storage of the manure is another source of nitrate leaching to the groundwater. Farmers commonly store manure in large non-isolated holes in the ground because it is convenient and relatively cheap. Furthermore, private households generate large amounts of organic and inorganic wastes that rich on the nitrogen forms [3]. As a result of human activities, NGO “MAMA-86” [4] reported an increase in nitrate content for 2/3 of sample wells (underground waters) by 10 times in Kharkiv region during the period of 2001-2008. So far, monitoring of water quality on content of mineral nitrogen forms has not been conducted to a large extent especially in rural areas. Thus, rural people do not have sufficient access to water quality information.
Therefore, the main objective of this study was to monitor drinking water sources in rural areas of Ukraine. Since around 70 % of rural population in Ukraine consumes water from underground sources (different types of wells) we selected these sources for monitoring purposes during the period of 2008-2012.
We analysed content of mineral nitrogen forms in underground waters of different locations. Underground waters include waters from deep wells (<10 meters) and shallow wells (>10 meters). These locations are situated on a boundary between Polissya and Forest-Steppe territories within Kyievo-Sviatoshyns’kyi Raion in Kyiv oblast (Fig. 1).

D:\documents\Марина-2012\Ukrainian Phd\articles\national conferences\Ecology Meeting 2013 June\Study area.png

Figure 1. Study area covering Kyievo-Sviatoshyns’kyi Raion in Kyiv oblast. Source: GADM database of Global Administrative Areas (available at

The locations differ between each other by different ecosystems. Areas belonging to Polissya are characterized by densely distributed forests (northern part of the Raion) whereas areas of Forest-Steppe have less forest and more human activities [5].

Figure 2. Percentage of water samples (n) exceeding the national water quality standard for nitrate (NO3-) and ammonium (NH4+) concentrations during the period of

Sampling points were randomly selected. Laboratory analyses of nitrate (NO3-), nitrite (NO2-) and ammonium (NH4+) in drinking waters were conducted in the Accredited measuring laboratory of quality of surface, underground, and sewage waters and the objects of agricultural usage of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine (accreditation certificate number #ПТ-0117/07 from 27.04.2007) using standard methods of the Ukrainian national standard - State Sanitary Standards and Rules (DSanPiN 2.2.4-171-10) [6]. We evaluate content of the nitrogen forms by comparing them with the national standard of nitrate (50 mg per dm3), nitrite (3.3 mg per dm3) and ammonium (2.6 mg per dm3) content in wells given in DSanPiN 2.2.4-171-10 [6]. 
Main results.  Monitoring results indicate high nitrate concentrations in many water samples relative to the national standard. Majority of these water samples is located within the Forest-Steppe area. We observe that in around 30 % (out of 13 water samples), 10 % (out of 29 water samples) and 40 % (out of 33 water samples) of water samples nitrate content exceeds the national standards in 2008, 2009 and 2011, respectively (Fig. 2). This expedience is estimated in the range of a factor 0.8-3. Results of water sampling in 2012 show that around ½ of water samples (15 samples in total) have exceeded nitrate concentrations with the range from around 30 % to over 100 % relative to the standard. These water samples of 2012 were taken from the Forest-Steppe area of Kyiv oblast.
Higher values in ammonium content compared to the national standard are found only in water samples of 2012 (Fig. 2). Here around ½ of these samples have exceeded ammonium concentrations by up to 40 %. Nitrite concentrations in all sampling sites of underground waters (wells) do not exceed the national standards during the period of 2008-2012. 

Conclusion. We observe higher concentrations of nitrate and ammonium in majority of water samples located within the Forest-Steppe area rather than within the Polissya. This shows the impact of human activities, which are more profound on the Forest-Steppe area compared to the Polissya, where forest ecosystems dominate. 


  1. National Report of Ukraine (2010). National Report on Drinking Water Quality and on the State of Drinking Water Supply systems in Ukraine. Publication of the Ministry of Regional Development, Construction and Housing and Communal Services of Ukraine, Kyiv,  p.710 (Ukrainian)
  2. National Report of Ukraine (2007). National Report on the Environment in 2007. Official publication of the Ministry of the Environment of Ukraine, Kyiv, p.302.
  3. WHO (2011). Nitrates and Nitrites in drinking water: Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, Geneva, p.31.
  4. VEGO “Mama-86” (2009). Nitrate contamination of drinking water in Ukraine: research of VEGO “Mama-86” during 2001-2008 years, Kyiv, p.16 (in Ukrainian).
  5. FAO (2008). Second country report on the state of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture: Ukraine, The National Centre for Plant Genetic Resources of Ukraine, Kharkiv, p.41.  English)
  6. Normative document (2010). The State Sanitary standards and rules “Hygienic requirements to drinking water intended for human consumption”: DSanPiN 2.2.4-171-10. Entered into force 2010-05-12. Publication of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Kyiv.

Monitoring results of mineral nitrogen compounds in underground waters of Ukraine [Електронний ресурс]  / Strokal M.P., Kopilevych V.A., Voytenko L.V. // Режим доступу:

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