Surface water Digital Solutions Europe

VIDEO: Deltares nitrate monitoring app recognised for digital value

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Dutch water institute wins Water Europe digital award

A Dutch smartphone app designed to help measure and share the results of nitrate levels in surface and groundwater has been recognised for providing digital value to water.

Dutch institute Deltares won Water Europe’s ‘Digital Water Award’, presented during the Water Innovation Europe 2020 event.

Designed for water authorities and farmers, Deltares’s app scans and analyses nitrate strips, displays the results immediately and gives users the option to share the data.

Shared results are displayed immediately in the online Delta Data Viewer, compiled from specific combinations of background maps, measurement information and area properties for each user group.

More information can be seen in the Deltares video below:

Overcoming the environmental challenge

Agriculture fertiliser can contain elements such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which is ultimately converted to nitrates.

When used in large quantities on land, it can end up in groundwater sources.

“Nitrate can have negative effects on human health,” said Sheila Ball, subsurface and groundwater specialist at Deltares.

"For example, it can cause blue baby syndrome, which can be fatal for infants. But it can also cause eutrophication, which can be toxic to the environment as well. It can cause the death of fish and other animal species."

Loïc Charpentier, policy officer from Water Europe, presented the award to Joachim Rozemeijer, in charge of subsurface and groundwater quality in Deltares.

"You can't see if the water contains nitrate or not,” said Rozemeijer in the video. “We are trying to give farmers more insight about the water quality on their own fields by offering a simple way to take measurements.”

Isolating nitrate hot spots

In the video, Laurens Gerner from Waterschap (water board) Rijn en IJssel said the organisation is cooperating with the agricultural sector to ensure more of the nutrients leached to the environment end up in crops. “That’s the goal,” he said.

Deltares said that the app makes it possible to “isolate nitrate sources and hot spots”, and to test the impact of the measures.

Once the app is installed on a smartphone, it just requires a reference map and nitrate test strips to get started.

Advantages include speed (60 seconds) per measurement, as well as the low cost (~EUR 0.50).

However, one of the listed disadvantages includes limited accuracy of test strips (~30% especially at low concentrations, compared to ~10% for laboratory analyses).

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