Secondary-treated municipal wastewater (MWW) could supply a viable alternative water resource for cooling water systems. Inorganic salts in the concentrated cooling water pose a great challenge to corrosion control chemicals. In this study, the inhibition effect of 1-hydroxy ethylidene-1,1-diphosphonic acid (HEDP), trimethylene phosphonic acid (ATMP) and 2-phosphonobutane-1,2,4-tricarboxylic acid (PBTCA) on corrosion of carbon steel in secondary-treated MWW was investigated by the means of potentiodynamic polarization and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. The inhibition effect increased with increasing concentration of inhibitors. The corrosion rates of carbon steel were 1.5, 0.8, 0.2 and 0.5 mm a–1 for blank, HEDP, ATMP and PBTCA samples at 50 mg L–1, respectively. The phosphorus-based chemicals could adsorb onto the surface of the carbon steel electrode, form a coat of protective film and then protect the carbon steel from corrosion in the test solution.