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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Apr 2018

Research article | 10 Apr 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Global Phosphorus Recovery for Agricultural Reuse

Dirk-Jan D. Kok1, Saket Pande1, Jules B. van Lier1, Angela R. C. Ortigara2, Hubert Savenije1, and Stefan Uhlenbrook1,2 Dirk-Jan D. Kok et al.
  • 1Department of Water Management, Delft University of Technology. Delft, Netherlands
  • 2World Water Assessment Programme, UNESCO. Perugia, Italy

Abstract. Phosphorus is is an element necessary for the development of crops and is thus commonly applied as fertilizer to sustain agricultural production. It occurs naturally at indefinite quantities, of uncertain quality, in phosphate rock formations, but also concentrates itself in urban and livestock wastewater wherefrom it is often lost as a pollutant. Recovering phosphorus from wastewater to partially meet agricultural demand can contribute to tackling both phosphorus pollution as well natural resource depletion. Here we show that humans discharge a maximum of 3.7MtP into wastewater thereby potentially satisfying 20% of the global fertilizer demand. Provided 2015 market dynamics, however, we conclude that only 4% of this throughput is technologically and economically recoverable while rock phosphate products exist. Nonetheless, through this recovery many wastewater treatment facilities can contribute to creating sustainable communities as well as protecting the environment, while reducing their own operational cost.

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Dirk-Jan D. Kok et al.
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Dirk-Jan D. Kok et al.
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Short summary
Phosphorus (P) is important to global food security. Thus it is concerning that natural P-reserves are predicted to deplete within the century. Here we explore the potential of P-recovery from wastewater (WW) at global scale. We identify high production and demand sites to determine optimal market prices and tradeflows. We show that 22 % of the agricultural demand can be met. However, only 4 % can be met economically. Nevertheless, recovery stimulates circular economic development in WW treatment.
Phosphorus (P) is important to global food security. Thus it is concerning that natural...