Can 7 billion people have clean water and plentiful food, ASU scientists ask

The Phosphorus Sustainability Research Coordination Network (RCN), a global gathering of researchers and stakeholders, will meet in Washington, D.C. May 14-16 to discuss a dwindling nutrient we all count on for food and clean drinking water: phosphorus.

The Phosphorus Sustainability RCN is led by Arizona State University Sustainability Scientists James Elser and Rimjhim Aggarwal, along with University of Arizona scientist Tauhidur Rahman. The goal of the five-year RCN is to find ways to recycle and efficiently produce phosphorus for a global demand. Phosphorus is a main ingredient in crop fertilizers, and the world's supplies are running out. Phosphorus runoff from farms is also the main culprit of ecological dead zones, massive fish die-offs, and contaminated drinking water.

“If you drink water and eat food, you should care about phosphorus,” Elser says.