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Combining tracer studies and biomimetic design principles to investigate clogging in constructed wetlands

Ricky Bonner, Lara Aylward, Uwe Kappelmeyer, Craig Sheridan


In this study, we suggest a clogging maintenance strategy and design alteration for constructed wetlands. Such a system could benefit rural communities who rely solely on constructed wetland systems for provision of household and agricultural water and for whom regular system shut-down for maintenance is essentially not viable. A newly established, pilot-scale horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland was investigated by means of step-change tracer experiments. Sampling was carried out at multiple points down the length of the wetland and at three depths for each location. The mean residence time data were used to generate velocity profiles. This methodology enabled the development of a three-dimensional hydraulic model to identify dead zones and regions of short-circuiting within the system. Biomimetic principles were then incorporated to propose improvements to conventional constructed wetland design, which would potentially allow for better clogging management and continuous operation. In particular, modularizing the regions of the wetland most prone to clogging (those containing dead space) would accommodate isolation, removal and replacement of such sections, while still allowing treatment of wastewater in adjacent sections.

Keywords: wastewater treatment, step-change tracer study, velocity profiles, constructed wetland, clogging, biomimicry

AJOL African Journals Online