Emerging technologies for removing nonpoint phosphorus from surface water and groundwater: introduction

J Environ Qual. 2012 May-Jun;41(3):621-7. doi: 10.2134/jeq2012.0080.


Coastal and freshwater eutrophication continues to accelerate at sites around the world despite intense efforts to control agricultural P loss using traditional conservation and nutrient management strategies. To achieve required reductions in nonpoint P over the next decade, new tools will be needed to address P transfers from soils and applied P sources. Innovative remediation practices are being developed to remove nonpoint P sources from surface water and groundwater using P sorbing materials (PSMs) derived from natural, synthetic, and industrial sources. A wide array of technologies has been conceived, ranging from amendments that immobilize P in soils and manures to filters that remove P from agricultural drainage waters. This collection of papers summarizes theoretical modeling, laboratory, field, and economic assessments of P removal technologies. Modeling and laboratory studies demonstrate the importance of evaluating P removal technologies under controlled conditions before field deployment, and field studies highlight several challenges to P removal that may be unanticipated in the laboratory, including limited P retention by filters during storms, as well as clogging of filters due to sedimentation. Despite the potential of P removal technologies to improve water quality, gaps in our knowledge remain, and additional studies are needed to characterize the long-term performance of these technologies, as well as to more fully understand their costs and benefits in the context of whole-farm- and watershed-scale P management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Geologic Sediments
  • Groundwater / chemistry*
  • Phosphorus / chemistry*
  • Recreation
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Phosphorus