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Phosphorus is one of the key nutrients affecting the ecosystems of the Danube River Basin and the Black Sea and in particular in causing exacerbating eutrophication.
It mainly originates from municipal waste water discharges and fertilised farmland. Large amounts of phosphorus may be discharged in detergents used in households. Phosphate-free detergents can significantly reduce phosphate loads in surface waters.

Phosphorus is one of the key nutrients affecting the ecosystems of the Danube River Basin and the Black Sea, by exacerbating eutrophication.

The total phosphorus load in the Danube River is around 48,900 tonnes per annum (1992-1996). This phosphorus mainly originates from sources such as wastewater discharges and erosion of fertilised farmland.

Diagram: Sources of phosphorus emissions into the Danube (1998-2000)

Product controls

Products used in households and industry and transferred to water cause pollution of the water they are blended with. For instance, polyphosphate-containing detergents (used in households for laundry purposes) act this way. Before poly-phosphate free detergents were introduced in Austria in the middle of the 1980s around half of the load of phosphorus in untreated wastewater originated from this source.

The ICPDR report "Removal of Phosphates from Detergents in the Danube Basin" gives clear recommendations as to how discharges of phosphorus into the water-bodies can be minimised. One of the conclusions of the report is that phosphate-free detergents can significantly reduce phosphate loads in surface waters.

According to the experience of western European states, where phosphate-free detergents are already widely used, the overall cost of introducing phosphate-free detergents is much less than the additional cost of improving sewage treatment to eliminate more phosphates. The introduction of phosphate-free detergents does not involve any additional cost to consumers or governments.

The ICPDR is taking the initiative by approaching the detergent industry to obtain commitments to promote the use of phosphate-free detergents in the Danube River Basin. This can be done using economic instruments or voluntary agreements.

Inventory of diffuse Sources of Nitrogen and Phosphorus

Environmental Research of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Water Research Project Research Report 200 22 232 Harmonised Inventory of Point and Diffuse Emissions of Nitrogen and Phosphorus for a Transboundary River Basin

Fulltext (PDF, 6.1MB)


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Last Edit: 2006-03-22