Constructed Wetlands

The system of planting aquatic plants such as reeds or bulrushes in a wet (often gravel) substrate medium for graywater recycling is called a "constructed wetland" or "artificial wetland." The first artificial wetlands were built in the 1970s. By the early 1990s, there were more than 150 constructed wetlands treating municipal and industrial wastewater in the U.S..

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Constructed wetlands treatment systems can be established almost anywhere, including on lands with limited alternative uses. This can be done relatively simply where wastewater treatment is the only function sought. They can be built in natural settings, or they may entail extensive earthmov-ing, construction of impermeable barriers, or building of containment such as tanks or trenches. Wetland vegetation has been established and maintained on substrates ranging from gravel or mine spoils to clay or peat. . . Some systems are set up to recharge at least a portion of the treated wastewater to underlying ground water. Others act as flow-through systems, discharging the final effluent to surface waters. Constructed wetlands have diverse applications and are found across the country and around the world. They can often be an environmentally acceptable, cost-effective treatment option, particularly for small communities." 16

A wetland, by definition, must maintain a level of water near the surface of the ground for a long enough time each year to support the growth of aquatic vegetation. Marshes, bogs, and swamps are examples of naturally occurring wetlands. Constructed wetlands are designed especially for pollution control and exist in locations where natural wetlands do not.

Two types of constructed wetlands are in common use today. One type exposes the water's surface (Surface Flow Wetland, Figure 9.5), and the other maintains the water surface below the level of the gravel (Subsurface Flow Wetland, Figures 9.4 and 9.6). Some designs combine elements of both. Subsurface flow wetlands are also referred to as Vegetated Submerged Bed, Root Zone Method, Rock Reed Filter, Microbial Rock Filter, Hydrobotanical Method, Soil Filter Trench, Biological-Macrophytic Marsh Bed and Reed Bed Treatment.17

Subsurface flow wetlands are considered to be advantageous

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