Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.119956
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) Efficacy of point source legislation quantified for a 64-year river water quality trajectory of phosphorus loading
Author Hildebrandt, S.; Krüger, E.H.; Ruhl, A.S.; Borchardt, D.
Source Titel Journal of Environmental Management
Year 2024
Department ASAM
Volume 352
Page From art. 119956
Language englisch
Topic T5 Future Landscapes
Keywords Water legislation; Point sources; Phosphorus; Water quality; Trajectory Efficac
Abstract Changes in river water quality often follow typical trajectories characterized by sequential phases of degradation and recovery induced by management measures, typically achieved with combinations of legislative and technological interventions. However, the key question about the effectiveness of the different types of legal interventions – source control, use-related, and end-of-pipe – remains poorly understood. With the case of phosphorus (P), which is a valuable indicator of surface water quality and a widespread target of legislation at various governance levels in order to control eutrophication of water bodies, we quantified the relation between point source loading of P and resulting river water quality for a multidecadal trajectory of the river Ruhr (Germany). In particular, we analysed P-related legislation targeting point source pollution enforced at EU, national, state, and local level and linked their development with measured total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in the river Ruhr (Germany). To this end, we combined archival data with information in the literature and conducted interviews with contemporary witnesses to describe and quantify the efficacy of each legislative approach. Although not specifically targeted at P reduction, end-of-pipe measures (sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants (WWTP)) reduced TP inputs to surface waters already in the 1960s and 1970s, curbing TP inputs to the Ruhr by 38% in 1980. The first targeted source control legislation – the banning of phosphates in textile detergents in 1981 – effectively reduced TP concentrations in WWTP influents by 36% since 1990. In combination with stronger end-of-pipe legislation focusing on P elimination in WWTP since the 1990s, TP concentrations in WWTP effluents were reduced by 86% at the end of the 1990s and by 92% in 2021. Complete and successful source control for textile detergents made use-related legislation redundant. Our study demonstrates that source control measures should be prioritized, because they are the fastest way to curb emissions. These findings provide insights that can inform efficient decision-making regarding water quality in a trajectory perspective of hierarchical governance and technological needs, as well as effective policy-making and management for other pollutants requiring control from point sources.
Persistent UFZ Identifier
Hildebrandt, S., Krüger, E.H., Ruhl, A.S., Borchardt, D. (2024):
Efficacy of point source legislation quantified for a 64-year river water quality trajectory of phosphorus loading
J. Environ. Manage. 352 , art. 119956 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.119956