Agricultural fields have been frequently identified as major contributors of nitrate leaching into surface and ground waters. Tile drains can act as direct pathways, transferring leached nitrate to surface water. Bioreactor filters are useful for the removal of nitrate from drainage waters; however, these filters require an external carbon supply to sustain denitrification. In this study, four organic carbon sources including wood, barley straw, rice husks, and date palm leaf, were used to enhance denitrification and the effects of water velocity and influent nitrate concentration on the nitrate removal were evaluated. Cumulative nitrate removal was highest for the date palm leaf treatments and was lowest for the wood treatments. The effects were in decreasing order for date palm leaf, barley straw, rice husks, and wood, respectively. The performance of the biofilters improved with increasing influent nitrate concentration and decreasing water velocity, allowing for high nitrate removal rates to be achieved. The results showed that all of the treatments had reduced the effluent nitrate concentrations below the USEPA maximum contaminant level for drinking water of 45 mg L−1 nitrate at the end of the study.
Keywords: carbon substrate, denitrification, drainage water, nitrate removal