Life cycle comparison of centralized wastewater treatment and urine source separation with struvite precipitation: Focus on urine nutrient management

Stephanie K L Ishii, Treavor Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Scopus citations


Alternative approaches to wastewater management including urine source separation have the potential to simultaneously improve multiple aspects of wastewater treatment, including reduced use of potable water for waste conveyance and improved contaminant removal, especially nutrients. In order to pursue such radical changes, system-level evaluations of urine source separation in community contexts are required. The focus of this life cycle assessment (LCA) is managing nutrients from urine produced in a residential setting with urine source separation and struvite precipitation, as compared with a centralized wastewater treatment approach. The life cycle impacts evaluated in this study pertain to construction of the urine source separation system and operation of drinking water treatment, decentralized urine treatment, and centralized wastewater treatment. System boundaries include fertilizer offsets resulting from the production of urine based struvite fertilizer. As calculated by the Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts (TRACI), urine source separation with MgO addition for subsequent struvite precipitation with high P recovery (Scenario B) has the smallest environmental cost relative to existing centralized wastewater treatment (Scenario A) and urine source separation with MgO and Na3PO4 addition for subsequent struvite precipitation with concurrent high P and N recovery (Scenario C). Preliminary economic evaluations show that the three urine management scenarios are relatively equal on a monetary basis (<13% difference). The impacts of each urine management scenario are most sensitive to the assumed urine composition, the selected urine storage time, and the assumed electricity required to treat influent urine and toilet water used to convey urine at the centralized wastewater treatment plant. The importance of full nutrient recovery from urine in combination with the substantial chemical inputs required for N recovery via struvite precipitation indicate the need for alternative methods of N recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-103
Number of pages16
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • LCA
  • Nitrogen
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Phosphorus
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Water conservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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