Critical evaluation of the implementation of mitigation options for phosphorus from field to catchment scales

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Received for publication December 19, 2007. Nutrient regulations have been developed over the past decades to limit anthropogenic inputs of phosphorus (P) to surface waters. All of the regulations were promulgated in response to decreased water quality, which was at least partially associated with agricultural non-point source pollution. Improvements in water quality can take years, so the impacts of these regulations on water quality can not always be seen. Denmark has had nutrient management regulations aimed at achieving mass balance of P for 20 yr, and although great progress has been made, an average surplus of 11 kg P ha–1 remains. Northern Ireland is also trying to move toward mass balance, but decreases in inorganic P fertilizer use have been undermined by an increase in the use of feed concentrates. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers several states in the USA, a variety of best management practices are starting to have an effect on P losses from agriculture, but water quality has only improved slightly. Impairment to the supply of drinking water to the City of Tulsa Oklahoma led to a lawsuit that has greatly affected the management of poultry litter in the supplying watershed. This paper discusses the different regulations that have developed in these four regions, evaluates the strategies used to prevent non-point source pollution of P, reports impacts on water quality, and looks for lessons that can be learned as we move forward.

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