Nutrients Inside the Water Resource Recovery Facilities

Official Position Statement Approved by WEF

Date of Approval: October 6, 2022

Expiration Date: October 4, 2027

Too many nutrients entering waterbodies cause eutrophication, which can lead to harmful algal blooms (HABs) and have adverse impacts to aquatic life, causing problems in recreational, food and drinking water sources. Climate change can exacerbate these effects by intensifying drought conditions, lowering available oxygen, and increasing surface water temperatures. Additionally, severe storms can increase runoff and the transfer of nutrients from land to waterbodies.

Regulated sources, such as Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRFs), have historically carried most of the burden for reducing nutrients entering waterbodies. They have significantly invested in process and technological advancements, and infrastructure to reduce nutrient loads in their discharge. This has, in some instances, resulted in higher rate payer and end user costs than a community can afford.  This in turn has presented a challenge with affordability, while not always achieving the desired reductions in nutrient loads and waterbody improvements when other sources of nutrients were not also effectively addressed.

At the same time, nitrogen and phosphorus can be limited in soils but critical for plant growth and food supply, and phosphorus is a non-renewable resource at risk of depletion. Nutrients recovered from the liquid stream (like struvite) are fertilizers, while nutrients "recovered" or "sequestered" in biosolids are also available as fertilizers through land application practices which serve the agricultural and water sectors. Additionally, the reuse of treated water from the WRRF may play an important role in not only providing moisture but also in providing needed nutrients.

READ WEF'S OFFICIAL POSITION STATEMENT ON NUTRIENTS IN THE WATER RESOURCE RECOVERY FACILITIES 

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