Constructed Wetlands - Wastewater Treatment Systems

A constructed wetland is an organic wastewater treatment system that mimics and improves the effectiveness of the processes that help to purify water similar to naturally occurring wetlands. The system uses water, aquatic plants (i.e.: reeds, duckweed), naturally occurring microorganisms and a filter bed (usually of sand, soils and/or gravel). Constructed wetlands can be used for either secondary or tertiary wastewater treatment. Many different designs exist including vertical wetlands, which require less land, but more energy for operations like pumping or siphoning than horizontal wetlands, which can instead rely on gravity and topography. The extensive options in design, materials and technology allow the constructed wetland to be adapted to local conditions and land availability. Costs are dependent on the price of land and materials, but where land is cheaper and widely available, constructed wetlands are a very cost-effective method of wastewater treatment.
The general concept is that the plants, microorganisms and substrates together act as a filter and purification system. First, water is slowed as it enters the wetland, allowing for the sedimentation of solids. Through the process of water flow through the constructed wetland, plant roots and the substrate remove the larger particles present in the wastewater. Pollutants and nutrients present in the wastewater are then naturally broken down and taken up by the bacteria and plants, thereby removing them from the water. The retention time in the wetland, which varies depending on the design and desired quality level, along with UV radiation and plant secretion of antibiotics will also kill the pathogens present in wastewater. After treatment in a constructed wetland, water can be safely released into surface waters or used various purposes.
Salient features:
  • Cost efficient in terms of construction, operations and maintenance
  • Effectively treats wastewater from human waste, agricultural runoff, storm water and some metals or pollutants from mining and industry
  • Uses technology that is simple to understand and manage
  • Low energy consumption required for operations
  • Prepares water for reuse
  • Assists in maintaining groundwater and surface water levels
  • Contributes to environmental protection by providing a habitat for plants and animals
  • Acts as a means of water storage
  • Pleasing natural aesthetics
Indian Agriculture Research Institute, Pusa, New Delhi
Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, Mumbai