Unravelling the impact of treatment wetlands for human wellbeing and the environment

As the world gears up for World Wetlands Day on 2 February, let’s delve into the story of treatment wetlands and their profound influence on human wellbeing. Originating in the visionary work of wetland scientist Käthe Seidel in the 1960s, these natural marvels not only purify wastewater but also play a pivotal role in nurturing human communities and fostering a sustainable future.

Have you ever considered falling in love with a wastewater treatment plant? While it may not be a common sentiment, treatment wetlands possess a unique allure. These nature-based technologies, inspired by the biological processes of natural wetlands, were pioneered by Käthe Seidel. Since then, treatment wetlands have evolved into more than just wastewater purifiers. They have become essential contributors to the health and happiness of communities worldwide.

Treatment wetlands, with their ability to mimic natural processes, extend a plethora of co-benefits beyond wastewater purification. Local biodiversity flourishes in their presence, biomass production thrives, and carbon sequestration adds to their environmental credentials. In urban settings, treatment wetlands become valuable allies, mitigating the heat island effect, enhancing permeability, and fortifying flood resilience. Their aesthetic charm and recreational spaces directly contribute to the social dynamics and overall wellbeing of the communities they serve.


Wetland Solutions for Different Challenges: Case Studies from Italy, Thailand, and the Czech Republic

Today, treatment wetlands showcase an array of designs, reflecting their versatility and adaptability to diverse environments. Whether it’s preventing combined sewer overflows in Merone, Italy, or creating Sponge Cities in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, these wetlands play a crucial role in addressing surface water pollution and eutrophication.

In Merone, IRIDRA has ingeniously crafted a treatment wetland spanning 0.55 hectares upstream of the wastewater treatment plant. This innovative design serves the crucial purpose of averting combined sewer overflows triggered by frequent rain events. Especially tailored for rainwater management, these treatment wetlands play a pivotal role in the establishment of Sponge Cities, enhancing permeability to ensure dry footing and maintaining the lush greenery of the landscape.

Across the globe, in Koh Phi Phi, stands the Flower and Butterfly treatment wetland, which is seamlessly integrated into the landscape. Aptly named for its creative design inspired by this mountainous island, the wetland not only adds to the aesthetic charm but also fulfils vital ecological functions.

Meanwhile, in Marianske Radcice, Czech Republic, treatment wetlands address the challenge of contaminated drainage water from mining operations. Jiri Round and his son Vit designed a prize-winning system covering 2.5 hectares, effectively treating highly metal-polluted wastewater. This solution not only preserves the sensitive Lake Most but also enhances the overall wellbeing of the local community.


Towards Sustainable Living: Closing Local Water Cycles

Treatment wetlands, besides offering immediate benefits, contribute to long-term community resilience. They serve as essential building blocks for decentralized wastewater treatment, facilitating the onsite reuse of treated water. This aligns with the principles of circular economy, with applications ranging from agricultural irrigation to street cleaning. By closing local water cycles, treatment wetlands increase water safety, resilience, and contribute to the sustainable use of water resources.


International Conference on Wetland Systems and Pollution Control

As we celebrate World Wetlands Day, let’s acknowledge the undeniable link between treatment wetlands, human wellbeing, and the prospect of a sustainable and harmonious future. Discover more about these systems and engage with a community passionate about their impact at the International Conference for Wetland Systems and Pollution Control, on 24-29 November 2024 in Martinique. Visit icws2024.web-events.fr for details and to be part of the conversation shaping a sustainable future.

Sophie Guillaume and Marco Hartl

IWA Specialist Group on Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control
Sophie Guillaume (INRAE REVERSAAL), and Marco Hartl (alchemia-nova), are Young Water Professional (YWP) representatives for the IWA Specialist Group on Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control.   Sophie Guillaume I am a PhD student, working o... Read full biography