Phosphate

As water passes over rocks, phosphates are washed into the water. Phosphates are added to drinking water to prevent lead leaching from pipes and are often present in wastewater effluent. As phosphates are essential to life, high phosphate levels in water bodies will promote algal blooms.

Phosphates are widely used in fertilizers, so a shortage of these will have a significant impact on global food security. Phosphates come from rocks and are non-renewable, so must be recycled. Globally there is a drive to prevent phosphates from not being recycled from effluents and soil runoff.

  • Pool and spa – Phosphate is undesirable in pools and spas as it promotes the growth of algae. This is especially important for outdoor pools and spas.
  • Agriculture – Fertilizers are added to increase crop yield and health, and these are a major source of phosphate in the environment. Phosphate is essential to plant growth, as it is a macronutrient (like nitrate), so the phosphate levels are an important parameter for soil testing.
  • Drinking water – Phosphates are added to drinking water to combat the leaching of lead into the water from the pipes. The phosphates form a layer over the inside surface of the pipes known as a passivation layer, which protects the water from the lead.
  • Wastewater – Phosphates in effluents are monitored as they can cause eutrophication which will have a major impact on the surrounding environment. The EU Wastewater Directive released late 2018 will tighten the laws with regards to phosphorus removal from effluents prior to release, meaning more phosphorus testing required.
  • Boiler water/cooling towers – Polyphosphates are used in boiler and cooling tower systems to prevent scale formation.

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