Reducing phosphorus loading of surface water using iron-coated sand

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Phosphorus losses from agricultural soils is an important source of P in surface waters leading to surface water quality impairment. In addition to reducing P inputs, mitigation measures are needed to reduce P enrichment of surface waters. Because drainage of agricultural land by pipe drainage is an important pathway of P to surface waters, removing P from drainage water has a large potential to reduce P losses. In a field trial, we tested the performance of a pipe drain enveloped with Fe-coated sand, a side product of the drinking water industry with a high ability to bind P, to remove P from the drainage water. The results of this trial, encompassing more than one hydrological season, are very encouraging because the efficiency of this mitigation measure to remove P amounted to 94%. During the trial, the pipe drains were below the groundwater level for a prolonged time. Nevertheless, no reduction of Fe(III) in the Fe-coated sand occurred, which was most likely prevented by reduction of Mn oxides present in this material. The enveloped pipe drain was estimated to be able to lower the P concentration in the effluent to the desired water quality criterion for about 14 yr. Manganese oxides are expected to be depleted after 5 to 10 yr. The performance of the enveloped pipe drain, both in terms of its ability to remove P to a sufficiently low level and the stability of the Fe-coated sand under submerged conditions in the long term, needs prolonged experimental research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-259
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • treatment residuals
  • agricultural land
  • waste-water
  • grassland soils
  • flooded soils
  • phosphate
  • drainage
  • groundwater
  • reduction
  • removal

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