Impact and cost of measures to reduce nutrient emissions from wastewater and storm water treatment in the German Elbe river basin
As a leading nutrient emitter, wastewater infrastructure harbors significant technical potentials to reduce the water-polluting emissions of phosphorus and nitrogen into the Elbe river basin. From the viewpoint of the central infrastructure, the effluent threshold value of urban wastewater treatment plants could be lowered further by advanced use of denitrification and membrane filtration, and storm water overflows of wastewater and contaminated rainwater from sewers could be treated in retention soil filters. In addition, small-scale wastewater treatment plants, infiltration and reducing or unsealing impervious surfaces could be used as decentralized elements of wastewater or storm water treatment. It can be shown that if the most advanced measures were applied in all wastewater-relevant areas, up to 60% of the phosphorus and 37% of the nitrogen emissions could be avoided. Alongside central wastewater treatment plants, small-scale treatment plants prove to be the most effective and cost-efficient option. To achieve an ecologically acceptable state of the Elbe, however, it may be necessary to employ more costly measures as well.