The Nitrate App: testing what you can’t see

Published: 13 December 2016

Your living environment has to be healthy, but how can you know if there are risks for yourself or your surroundings if you can't see them?

Nitrate concentrations are particularly high in rural areas due to the use of manure, but high concentrations also occur in urban areas. You can’t see, smell or taste nitrate. Elevated nitrate concentrations in drinking water are harmful. During pregnancy, they can cause circulation problems in children: the blue baby syndrome. Nitrate in surface water also causes algal blooms, which result in green, stinking, toxic water with no oxygen.

A straightforward smartphone app for measuring nitraat-appnitrate levels

Deltares has designed the Nitrate App for smartphones so that everyone can measure nitrate levels and share the results. The app scans and analyzes nitrate strips, displays the results immediately and gives users the option to share the data. The shared results are displayed immediately in the online Delta Data Viewer. The viewer can put together specific combinations of background maps, measurement information and area properties for each user group. The technology in the app can also be used for other measurements that involve test strips, for example with ammonium, phosphate, sulphate, chloride and pH.

For citizens, farmers and water quality managers

The Nitrate App makes it possible to analyze surface water and groundwater, to isolate nitrate sources and hot spots, and to test the impact of measures. The app will be particularly welcomed by people working professionally with water quality such as farmers, water authorities and water companies.

Farmer Johan Koskamp from the Achterhoek area of the Netherlands is the first person to use this measuring method: “Monitoring wells have been installed in seven locations on different plots of land so that I can take groundwater samples easily. Measurements cost me a few minutes at most. Most of the time goes into pumping up the water. I’m not particularly good with smartphones but the app works fine. The only thing is that I expected the concentrations to be lower than the measurements I’m getting. So that’s a bit of a disappointment and I still can’t explain it.”

All you need is a reference map, nitrate test strips and a smartphone with the free Nitrate App installed. After taking a water sample with the test strip, you scan the result and, if desired, share it. If you have no Internet connection, the app will forward the measurement when you connect to Wi-Fi later.

Nitrate App going abroad

The Nitrate App, its technology and the first results of the field application in The Netherlands are going to be presented during the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco on December 13, 2016.

More information on how to get started can be found on the wiki pages