Surface water is considered to be one of the most severely polluted water sources in the world. Groundwater nitrate exceeds drinking water parameters in many southern African regions. Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, all of which are nitrogenous pollutants in water bodies, that can cause eutrophication. Eutrophication is a term that describes the very thorn in southern Africa`s waters. Harmful algal blooms (HABs), dead zones, and fish kills are all the effects of eutrophication, which is responsible for the deterioration of quality and the destabilisation of the ecological milieu in surface waters.

Water pollution and nitrates

Due to the excessive use of nitrate-based products in large scale operations and the discharge from inadequately treated sewage and slurry from livestock, more and more waterways are being contaminated with nitrates.

High nitrate levels in drinking water can lead to methaemoglobinaemia in babies; drinking water containing nitrate in excess of 10 mg/L (as N) can cause a potentially fatal blood disorder called methaemoglobinaemiain infants under the age of six months, those under three months are the most vulnerable. Furthermore, livestock and fish poisoning due the nitrification of water resources around mining operations, remain underestimated.

Nitrate water pollution leads to excessive amounts of nitrates in water and has been linked to the loss of diverse macrophytes (Lambert & Davy, 2011) Macrophytes are aquatic plants growing in or near the water. There are several effective treatment technologies available for nitrate removal in drinking water including reverse osmosis – it is widely known that Reverse Osmosis is the best technology for removing nitrates from water.

Major Risk Factors

On bladder cancer, one`s risk is about three times higher with nitrate levels at as low as 2.5 parts per million for 20 years. It goes up 1.5 times at nitrate levels of about 5ppm for as little as four years. This just polarises the need to be hypersensitive of the risks of exposure over a short period of time, especially considering what institutions consider a safe limit.

Open Pit Mining: Mines use ammonium nitrate-based explosives in the pit for blasting. The nitrates therefore build up over time and are in excess in the vicinity of the min

Agriculture: Agriculture is the largest single source of nitrate (runoff, leaching) pollution due to overuse of nitrogenous fertilizers. People who are most vulnerable to nitrate contamination obtain their water from private wells.


MABR: Be it for water reuse for rural application or a retrofit for an existing plant; the membrane-aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) process is a proven biofilm membrane solution that can treat domestic wastewater and polluted surface waters. This system has been making waves and gaining quite a following, due to its added energy efficiency. The MABR systems come in different configurations, whether for a retrofit or new decentralised solution.

NIROBOX: The revolutionary family of solutions NIROBOX caters for not only powerful reverse osmosis technology, with high-performance membranes, but comes in a freshwater configuration for all water treatment needs – with the support of robust remote monitoring hard- and software technology, you can turn the key, at the press of a button on your screen. Its unsurpassed performance in energy efficiency and the overall quality treatment of water is just the cherry on top.

MEB solutions are tailored around proven technologies with the ability to effectively remove the most harmful toxins from polluted waters. We have for decades developed solutions to combat pollution and reduce the environmental impact of nitrates in vulnerable areas and communities. Make the call today!