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Reed Bed Systems for Industry

Wastewater is produced from many industries - dairying, piggery, and winery industries are just a few. Anywhere where water is a necessary input in production processes, contamination of the water is the result.

In primary production, one of the simplest methods for treating wastewater is to use reed beds to clean up much of the pollutant load.

Reed bed treatment is a natural process that allows the re-use of the secondary treated effluent for crop systems that can provide additional environmental and economic benefits for the enterprise.

The Function Of A Reed Bed In Wastewater Treatment

Reed beds used in wastewater management are termed “constructed wetlands”. If one was to observe the ephemeral and perpetual streams in the Australian landscape, it would be noticed that reeds play a pivotal role in the ecology and health of those streams and watercourses. It will be noticed also that reeds emerge in shallower water – this is the “edge”, and the edge effect is a critical factor in nature.

Reed beds in wastewater treatment systems tend to mimic natural systems and they operate by using subsurface flow in a gravel medium consisting of aggregate of 15mm to 20mm size. The aggregate provides a stable surface for microbial attachment (as in sewage treatment plants) and an appropriate substrate for reed growth.

The reeds provide surfaces for bacterial growth and filtration of suspended solids and their vigorous rhizome root systems allows the transmission of oxygen into the bed to facilitate organic degradation and nutrient uptake.

The Role of Wetland Plants

The role of wetland plants (specifically macrophytes) in reed bed treatment systems offers key advantages through …

  1. aerial plant tissue
  2. plant tissue in the water
  3. roots and rhizomes in the gravel media

Some features are …

  1. storage of nutrients
  2. filtration
  3. provision of large surface area for attachment of biofilms and bacteria
  4. release of photosynthetic oxygen which increases aerobic degradation
  5. sedimentation

Many wetland plants have the ability to transfer significant amounts of oxygen from the atmosphere to the root rhizosphere resulting in aerobic zones around the roots and anaerobic areas away from the roots.

The reed bed system has the potential to provide low cost and low maintenance biological treatment of wastewater. 

The primary objectives are to construct a system that …

  • encompasses natural processes
  • performs with low fossil energy input and relatively low maintenance
  • produces a quality of effluent that will be acceptable for re-use

More on Reed Bed Wastewater Treatment Systems


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