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Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance Represented in International Conferences

Phosphorus Alliance

September 5, 2018

Dr. Jim Elser at confernce in China

Drs. Jim Elser and Matt Scholz of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance made presentations on topics related to phosphorus sustainability at recent conferences in Asia and Europe.

Jim Elser, executive director of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, gave a keynote address at the 4th International Conference on Environmental Pollution and Health held at Nankai University in Tianjin, China. His talk was “Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future,” regarding the critical need for this non-renewable resource in agriculture and the impact of excess phosphorus in waterways.

Other speakers at the conference represented the US Environmental Protection Agency and universities in China, Japan, Canada, several European countries, and the US. Visit for additional information about the conference.

Jim Elser gave the same talk at the Center for Material Cycles and the Environment in the Department of Environmental Planning and Management of Nanjing University in Nanjing, China.

Matt Scholz, program manager of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, made a presentation at the third European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference (ESPC3) in Helsinki, Finland. He introduced the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance as a membership organization and North America’s central forum and advocate for the sustainable use, recovery and recycling of phosphorus in the food system. The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliances works with industry to find solutions and is the North American analog to the European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform, which hosted the conference. Matt also provided context for the phosphorus situation

Other speakers at the conference represented governments and sustainability organizations in countries across Europe. Visit for additional information about the ESPC3 and watch the presentation made by Matt Scholz on YouTube at

More information on the activities of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance is available at

Flathead Lake an Example of Effective Phosphorus Monitoring and Lake Protection

Phosphorus Alliance

September 5, 2018

Flathead lake, Montana

Flathead Lake in Montana is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western continental US (by surface area). It is also one of the cleanest large lakes in the world, with amazingly transparent water attracting people for fishing, swimming and water sports. The lake is a vital part of the Crown of the Continent, the largest intact ecosystem in the United States.

The health of the lake owes a lot to the Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS), which has conducted a scientifically-rigorous monitoring program since 1977. On August 1, 2018, the FLBS was presented the prestigious Stewardship Award by a local lake protection group, the Flathead Lakers. The Stewardship Award was given in recognition of the Bio Station's sustained and outstanding contributions to the protection of Flathead Lake and its watershed.

By all historical reports Flathead Lake was highly oligotrophic, meaning lacking in key nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, a condition reflecting the largely undeveloped nature of its watershed in wilderness and national park. However, during the 1970’s, FLBS monitoring indicated higher levels of nutrients and algae growth due to population expansion that resulted in untreated sewage entering the lake. During this time, FLBS itself installed a modern wastewater treatment plant to treat its own sewage, a plant with advanced phosphorus removal capacities that were cutting edge at the time. Following this successful local demonstration, this technology was soon adopted by local communities such as the city of Kalispell. During subsequent years, FLBS monitoring has documented that levels of phosphorus loading to the lake as well as phosphorus concentrations in the lake have actually declined. As a result, the lake has maintained its world-famous water clarity.

However, new concerns have arisen, especially surrounding the impacts of aging and improperly installed septic tank systems associated with the lake’s growing population. In response, new distributed household and neighborhood treatment systems are likely needed to maintain the health and cleanliness of Flathead Lake. Indeed, FLBS itself needs to replace its now outdated wastewater treatment plant and seeks to implement a modular resource recovery system that will recycle phosphorus and nitrogen and capture bioenergy.

Flathead Lake is a success story in a time when about 40 percent of rivers and lakes in the U.S. surveyed by the EPA are too polluted for swimming or fishing, and lakes across the US are impacted by harmful algal blooms. The FLBS’s experience demonstrates the importance of ongoing vigilant monitoring that is connected to an engaged community in maintaining a lake’s health and cleanliness.

Dr. Jim Elser is executive director of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance and director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station. Read more about the FLBS and the Stewardship Award at