INAE Letters

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 21–32 | Cite as

Nitrogen and Phosphorous Removal from Municipal Wastewater Using High Rate Algae Ponds

  • Keneni Alemu
  • Berhanu Assefa
  • Demeke Kifle
  • Helmut Kloos
Original Article


Eutrophication due to uncontrolled discharge of sewage water rich in nitrogen and phosphorous is one of the most significant water quality problems world-wide. Nitrogen and phosphorous can be removed by activated sludge process, one of the widely applied technologies among other conventional methods for municipal wastewater treatment. However, such technology requires high capital and operational costs, making it unaffordable for many developing nations, including Ethiopia. This study aimed to investigate the performance of two high rate algal ponds (HRAPs) in nitrogen and phosphorous removal from primary settled municipal wastewater under high land tropical climate conditions in Addis Ababa. The experiment was run under semi-continuous feed for 2 months at hydraulic retention times (HRT) ranging from 2 to 8 days and organic loading rates ranging from 44.3 to 9.08 g COD/m2/day using two HRAPs 250 and 300 mm deep, respectively. In this experiment, Chlorella sp., Chlamydomonas sp., and Scenedesmus sp. in the class of Chlorophyceae were identified as the dominant species. The maximum TN and TP removal of 91.70 and 82.81% was achieved in the 300 mm deep HRAP during 8 and 6 day HRT operations, respectively. Increased HRT and pond depth increased nutrient removal but high chlorophyll-a biomass was observed in the 250 mm deep HRAP. Therefore, the 300 mm deep HRAP is promising for scaling up nutrient removal from municipal wastewater at a daily average organic loading rate in the range of 14.3–15.33 g COD/m2/day or 10.34–11.46 g BOD5/m2/day and a 6 day HRT. We conclude that HRAP is a dependable approach to remediate nitrogen and phosphorous from primary settled municipal wastewater in Addis Ababa climate with appropriate control of pond depth, organic loading rates and HRT.


High rate algal ponds Nitrogen Phosphorous Municipal wastewater Water depth HRT 



We like to thank Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources, Addis Ababa University, for supervising financial support given by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the USAID/HED Grant in the Africa-US Higher Education Initiative—HED 052-9740-ETH-11-01.


  1. Abdel-raouf N (2012) Microalgae and wastewater treatment. Saudi J Biol Sci 19:257–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahmad AL, Yasin NHM, Derek CJC, Lim JK (2011) Microalgae as a sustainable energy source for biodiesel production: a review. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 15(1):584–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. APHA (American Public Health Association) (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 20th edn. American Public Health Association, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  4. Assemany PP, Calijuri ML, De Aguiar E, Henrique M, De Souza B, Silva NC, Santiago F (2015) Algae/bacteria consortium in high rate ponds: influence of solar radiation on the phytoplankton community. Ecol Eng 77:154–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Butler E, Suleiman M, Ahmad A, Lu RL (2017) Oxidation pond for municipal wastewater treatment. Appl Water Sci 7:31–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cai T, Park SY, Li Y (2013) Nutrient recovery from wastewater streams by microalgae: status and prospects. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 19:360–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chan YJ, Chong MF, Law CL, Hassell DG (2009) A review on anaerobic—aerobic treatment of industrial and municipal wastewater. Chem Eng J 155:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cho D, Ramanan R, Heo J, Kang Z, Kim B, Ahn C, Oh H, Kim H (2015) Organic carbon, influent microbial diversity and temperature strongly influence algal diversity and biomass in raceway ponds treating raw municipal wastewater. Bioresour Technol 191:481–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cho D, Choi J, Kang Z, Kim B, Oh H (2017) Microalgal diversity fosters stable biomass productivity in open ponds treating wastewater. Sci Rep 7:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Craggs RJ, Heubeck S, Lundquist TJ, Benemann JR, Zealand N, Luis S, Creek W (2007) Potential for algae biofuel from wastewater treatment high rate algal ponds in New Zealand. Water Sci Technol 7:1–8Google Scholar
  11. Craggs R, Sutherland D, Campbell H (2012) Hectare-scale demonstration of high rate algal ponds for enhanced wastewater treatment and biofuel production. J Appl Phycol 24:329–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cromar NJ, Fallowfield HJ (1997) Effect nutrient loading retention time. J Appl Phycol 9:301–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davies-Colley RJ, Hickey CW, Quinn JM (1995) Organic matter, nutrients, and optical characteristics of sewage lagoon effluents. N Z J Mar Freshw Res 29(2):235–250. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. de Godos I, Blanco S, García-Encina PA, Becares E, Muñoz R (2009) Long-term operation of high rate algal ponds for the bioremediation of piggery wastewaters at high loading rates. Bioresour Technol 100(19):4332–4339. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. De Troyer N, Mereta ST, Goethals PLM, Boets P (2016) Water quality assessment of streams and wetlands in a fast growing east African City. Water 8:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Faleschini M, Esteves JL, Valero MAC (2012) The effects of hydraulic and organic loadings on the performance of a full-scale facultative pond in a temperate climate region (Argentine Patagonia). Water Air Soil Pollut 223:2483–2493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Garcia J (2000) High rate algal pond operating strategies for urban wastewater nitrogen removal. J Appl Phycol 12:331–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. García J, Hernández-mariné M, Mujeriego R (2002) Analysis of key variables controlling phosphorus removal in high rate oxidation ponds provided with clarifiers. Water SA 28(1):55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grobbelaar JU (2010) Microalgal biomass production: challenges and realities. Photosynth Res 106:135–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hargreaves JA (2006) Photosynthetic suspended-growth systems in aquaculture. Acquacult Eng 34:344–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Henze M, Gujer W, Mino T, van Loosdrecht MC (2000) Activated sludge models ASM1, ASM2, ASM2d and ASM3Google Scholar
  22. Judd S, Van Den Broeke LJP, Shurair M, Kuti Y, Znad H (2015) Algal remediation of CO2 and nutrient discharges: a review. Water Res 87:356–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kaya D, Dilek FB, Gökçay CF (2007) Reuse of lagoon effluents in agriculture by post-treatment in a step feed dual treatment process. Desalination 215:29–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kim BH, Kang Z, Ramanan R, Choi JE, Cho DH, Kim HS (2014) Nutrient removal and biofuel production in high rate algal pond using real municipal wastewater. J Microbiol Biotechnol 24:1123–1132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Larsdotter K (2006) Microalgae for phosphorus removal from wastewater in a Nordic climate. A doctoral thesis from the School of Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  26. Lorenzen C (1966) A method for the continuous measurement of in vivo chlorophyll concentration. Deep Res 13:223–227Google Scholar
  27. Lundquist ARBTJ, Woertz IC, Quinn NWT (2010) A realistic technology and engineering assessment of algae biofuel production. Energy Biosciences Institute, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  28. Martínez ME, Sánchez S, Jiménez JM, El Yousfi F, Muñoz L (2000) Nitrogen and phosphorus removal from urban wastewater by the microalga Scenedesmus obliquus. Bioresour Technol 73(3):263–272. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mayo AW, Hanai EE (2014) Dynamics of nitrogen transformation and removal in a pilot high rate pond. Water Water Resour Prot 6:433–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mehrabadi A, Craggs R, Farid MM (2015) Wastewater treatment high rate algal ponds (WWT HRAP) for low-cost biofuel production. Bioresour Technol 184:202–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Metcalf-eddy (2003) Wastewater engineering treatment and reuse, 4th edn. McGraw-Hill Education, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. MoWIE (Ministry of Water Irrigation and Energy) (2015) Urban wastewater management strategy. The Federal Democratic Republic of EthiopiaGoogle Scholar
  33. Mun R, Guieysse B (2006) Algal—bacterial processes for the treatment of hazardous contaminants: a review. Water Res 40:2799–2815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nurdogan Y, Oswald WJ (1995) Enhanced nutrient removal in high-rate ponds. Water Sci Technol 31:33–43Google Scholar
  35. Olguın EJ (2003) Phycoremediation: key issues for cost-effective nutrient removal processes. Biotechnol Adv 22:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Olguín EJ (2012) Dual purpose microalgae—bacteria-based systems that treat wastewater and produce biodiesel and chemical products within a biorefinery. Biotechnol Adv 30:1031–1046CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Olukanni DO, Ducoste JJ (2011) Optimization of waste stabilization pond design for developing nations using computational fluid dynamics. Ecol Eng 37:1878–1888CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Park JBK, Craggs RJ, Shilton AN (2011) Wastewater treatment high rate algal ponds for biofuel production. Bioresour Technol 102(1):35–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pittman JK, Dean AP, Osundeko O (2011) The potential of sustainable algal biofuel production using wastewater resources. Bioresour Technol 102:17–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rawat I, Kumar RR, Mutanda T, Bux F (2013) Biodiesel from microalgae: a critical evaluation from laboratory to large scale production. Appl Energy 103:444–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rawat I, Gupta SK, Shriwastav A, Singh P, Kumari S, Bux F (2016) Microalgae applications in wastewater treatment. In: Bux F, Chisti Y (eds) Algae biotechnology: products and processes. Springer, Cham, pp 249–268. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Renuka N, Sood A, Ratha SK (2013) Evaluation of microalgal consortia for treatment of primary treated sewage effluent and biomass production. J Appl Phycol 25:1529–1537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Renuka N, Sood A, Prasanna R, Ahluwalia AS (2015) Phycoremediation of wastewaters: a synergistic approach using microalgae for bioremediation and biomass generation. Int J Environ Sci Technol 12:1443–1460. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reynolds CS (2012) Environmental requirements and habitat preferences of phytoplankton: chance and certainty in species selection. Bot Mar 55:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Santiago AF, Calijuri ML, Assemany PP (2013) Algal biomass production and wastewater treatment in high rate algal ponds receiving disinfected effluent. Environ Technol 34(13-14):1877–1885. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shen Y (2014) RSC advances treatment via algae photochemical synthesis for biofuels production. RSC Adv 4:49672–49722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sutherland DL, Howard-williams C, Turnbull MH, Broady PA, Craggs RJ (2014a) Seasonal variation in light utilisation, biomass production and nutrient removal by wastewater microalgae in a full-scale high-rate algal pond. J Appl Phycol 9(26):1317–1329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sutherland DL, Turnbull MH, Craggs RJ (2014b) Increased pond depth improves algal productivity and nutrient removal in wastewater treatment high rate algal ponds. Water Res 53:271–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sutherland DL, Montemezzani V, Howard-williams C, Turnbull MH, Broady PA, Craggs RJ (2015) Modifying the high rate algal pond light environment and its effects on light absorption and photosynthesis. Water Res 70:86–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) (2011) Principles of Design and Operations of Wastewater Treatment Pond Systems for Plant Operators, Engineers, and Managers, no. August. Cincinnati, Ohio: Land Remediation and Pollution Control Division National Risk Management Research Laboratory Office of Research and DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  51. Wang T, Omosa IB, Chiramba T (2014) Water and wastewater treatment in Africa—current practices and challenges. Clean Soil Air Water 42:1029–1035 (Review Article) CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Indian National Academy of Engineering 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keneni Alemu
    • 1
  • Berhanu Assefa
    • 2
  • Demeke Kifle
    • 3
  • Helmut Kloos
    • 4
  1. 1.Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources, Addis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.Addis Ababa Institute of Technology, Addis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.Zoological Science DepartmentAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  4. 4.University of California Medical CenterSan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations