Benchmarks for urine volume generation and phosphorus mass recovery in commercial and institutional buildings

Lucas Crane, Ashton Merck, Shwetha Delanthamajalu, Khara Grieger, Anna Maria Marshall, Treavor H. Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phosphorus (P) is a finite resource and necessary nutrient for agriculture. Urine contains a higher concentration of P than domestic wastewater, which can be recovered by source separation and treatment (hereafter urine diversion). Commercial and institutional (CI) buildings are a logical location for urine diversion since restrooms account for a substantial fraction of water use and wastewater generation. This study estimated the potential for P recovery from human urine and water savings from reduced flushing in CI buildings, and proposed an approach to identify building types and community layouts that are amenable to implementing urine diversion. The results showed that urine diversion is most advantageous in CI buildings with either high daily occupancy counts or times, such as hospitals, schools, office buildings, and airports. Per occupant P recovery benchmarks were estimated to be between 0.04–0.68 g/cap·d. Per building P recovery rates were estimated to be between 0.002–5.1 kg/d, and per building water savings were estimated to be between 3 and 23 % by volume. Recovered P in the form of phosphate fertilizer and potable water savings could accrue profits and cost reductions that could offset the capital costs of new urine diversion systems within 5 y of operation. Finally, urine diversion systems can be implemented at different levels of decentralization based on community layout and organizational structure, which will require socioeconomic and policy acceptance for wider adoption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100227
JournalWater Research X
StatePublished - May 1 2024


  • Building occupancy
  • Resource recovery
  • Source separation
  • Urine diversion
  • Water conservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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