Present naturally in surface and wastewaters, ammonia mainly results from the deamination of organic nitrogen-containing compounds and hydrolysis of urea.
Ammonia may also be present from water treatment processes that utilize chloramines for disinfection, where ammonia is added to the water to react with chlorine. Ammonia is less likely to appear in groundwater due to adsorption to soil particles.
But, groundwater normally contains ammonia due to bacterial decay of plants and animals. However, concentrations of ammonia in rivers and drinking water reservoirs may indicate the presence of agricultural runoff or urban pollution. When the concentration of ammonia is high enough, it can alter the smell and taste of water, prove toxic to aquatic life, affecting the survival, growth, and reproduction rates of various marine species. Ammonia detection in water treatment systems is particularly important for aquarium owners and fish farm operators since ammonia is highly soluble in water and extremely toxic to fish.
In industrial applications, high concentrations of ammonia can cause corrosion in pipes. Ammonia is also monitored in fresh water aquariums and fish farming applications because of its toxicity to fish.