Back to Resources

Ordinances and Resolutions Adopted by Local Jurisdictions to Address Nitrate Contamination of Groundwater

posted on Wed, Mar 13 2019 3:17 pm by The Network for Public Health Law

Nitrate, a compound of nitrogen and oxygen, is one of the most common groundwater contaminants in rural areas and it originates primarily from the use of fertilizers, septic systems, and manure storage or spreading operations most often associated with agricultural practices.

Nitrate is regulated in public drinking water to reduce exposure to excess levels of nitrate that can cause methemoglobinemia (MetHb), or "blue baby" disease, in infants and pregnant women.  Longer term exposure to excess nitrate in drinking water has been linked to certain cancers, thyroid disease, and neural tube defects.

A health officer recently contacted the Network seeking sample local ordinances addressing nitrate groundwater contamination, or its sources, in states with high levels of agricultural activity.  The Network focused on three states: Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska, and provided ordinances and policy proposals from political subdivisions in these states. The requester did not ask the Network to review the language or assess the effectiveness of the ordinances provided.

Groundwater or Nitrate-Specific


Private Nuisance, Pollution of Private or Public Well


Wellhead Protection Area


Agricultural Performance Standards


Agricultural Waste and Manure Application


Animal Waste Storage


Reports that Discuss Nitrate from Livestock Facilities

Animal Agriculture Specific


CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) Moratoria


Network attorneys are available to answer questions on this and other public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Contact a Network Attorney in your area for more information. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.