Water Quality Management



Sustainable strategies of phosphorus management in Austria


Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft (BMLFUW)

contact person:
Matthias Zessner (Emailmzessner(at)
Helmut Rechberger (Emailhelmut.rechberger(at)

Project Staff:
A. Amann, O. Zoboli


Brief Description

The need for a sustainable management of phosphorus (P) has become in the last years increasingly pressing, mainly owing to the recognition of the extreme import dependency and of the largely inefficient use of this essential nutrient.

Thanks to a relatively sound and large data availability, it was possible to describe and quantify in detail for Austria the P flows and the unexploited potential for P recycling, especially from sewage sludge and meat and bone meal. A number of technologies were developed over the past years to recover P from sewage sludge and sewage sludge ashes. This development was accompanied by a series of studies which assessed and compared their technical performance, cost and environmental impacts. The available potential and technical possibilities for P recycling from sewage sludge and sewage sludge ashes are therefore well known. Nevertheless, at present the implementation of P recycling is not economically self-supporting and it must overcome existing legal obstacles. In order to select the most appropriate legal and financial instruments to foster an optimal P recycling, it is necessary to know the regional and national effects exerted by different strategies.

The goal of this project is to determine the trade-offs between costs, environmental effects and P recycling rate of different P recycling strategies, taking explicitly into account the regional and local infrastructure. This study shall therefore provide a solid scientific basis for the design of future legal instruments aiming to close the national phosphorus cycle.