What is ammonia?
Ammonia (NH3) is a colorless, alkaline gas at ambient temperature and pressure, with a distinct pungent odor. Ammonia is very soluble in water and forms the ammonium cation (NH4+) on dissolution in water. In the pH range of most natural waters nitrogen exists principally as NH4+. Ammonia may be present in groundwater as a result of the degradation of naturally occurring organic matter or manmade sources. Natural ammonia levels in groundwater and surface water are usually below 0.2 mg/L, but many regions throughout the world have high levels of naturally occurring ammonia. Ammonia may also originate from nitrogen-fertilizer application, livestock operations, industrial processes, sewage infiltration, and cement mortar pipe lining. During 1998 to 2010, samples from 393 private water wells in Saskatchewan were analyzed for ammonia and it was detected in more than 87% of the samples with an average value of 1.19 mg/L.