In recent years, considerable interest has been expressed in the nitrate content of water supplies. The most notable toxic effect of nitrate is infant methemoglobinemia. The risk of this disease increases significantly at nitrate-nitrogen levels exceeding 10 mg/l. For this reason, this concentration has been established as a limit for drinking water in many countries. In natural waters, nitrate is a minor ionic constituent and seldom accounts for more than a few percent of the total anions. However, nitrate in a significant concentration may occur in the vicinity of some point sources such as septic tanks, manure pits, and waste-disposal sites. Non-point sources contributing to groundwater pollution are numerous and a majority of them are related to agricultural activities. The largest single anthropogenic input of nitrate into the groundwater is fertilizer. Even though it has not been proven that nitrogen fertilizers are responsible for much of nitrate pollution, they are generally recognized as the main threat to groundwater quality, especially when inefficiently applied to irrigated fields on sandy soils. The biggest challenge facing today's agriculture is to maintain the balance between the enhancement of crop productivity and the risk of groundwater pollution. ?? 1982 Springer-Verlag New York Inc.