State of New Mexico > Environment Department > Drinking Water Bureau


Nitrate is the most common contaminant found in groundwater in New Mexico and other rural states.  It can occur naturally, but is generally an indication of groundwater contamination.  The most common source of Nitrate contamination is septic systems.  Nitrate in groundwater can also result from the application of fertilizers and the use of nitrogen-based explosives.

Nitrate is colorless and odorless in water. The Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for nitrate in drinking water is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l).  Populations at the greatest risk if consuming elevated levels of nitrate are infants, pregnant woman and the nursing mothers. Ingestion of nitrate by infants, whether directly or through the mother, can cause methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby syndrome", which is an inadequate supply of oxygen in the blood.

If you get your water from a public water supply, the water is tested routinely for nitrate.  Consult your water system about testing results or go to DRINKING WATER WATCH.  If you are on a well and would like to have your water tested for nitrate, contact a lab for sampling instructions.  Check the Sampling/Labs link in the left menu for a listing of labs in New Mexico.

To remove nitrate from water in the home, you must use either a reverse osmosis filter or a distillation unit.  Charcoal filters and water softeners do not remove nitrate. For more information on filtration, consult EPA's FILTRATION GUIDE .

DWB has a FACT SHEET (Información en Español) with information and advice in case your well or public water supply has elevated nitrate levels. If your water is contaminated with nitrate, DO NOT BOIL the wateras this will only concentrate the nitrate in the water.

For additional information on Nitrate, view EPA's NITRATE WEB PAGE.

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