Constructed Wetlands Bioreactor by Whole Water Solutions

Morgan Brown’s Whole Water Systems designed a constructed wetlands bioreactor (foreground) for this custom Sun Valley residence. The result is a green solution for waste-water management. Photo courtesy Whole Water Systems.

By Seth Anderson, Principal/Architect, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

At the Building a Better Bend lecture this past Tuesday, September 25, presenter Morgan Brown, LEED AP, of Whole Water Systems presented his case for handling waste-water through decentralized, bio-mimicry facilities and reusing the treated water for irrigation, rather than through centralized treatment and disposal.

Designers and engineers can use various technologies to decentralize water treatment, but the most interesting to me is the constructed, subsurface wetlands that Brown discussed as a sustainable solution for processing waste-water. Constructed wetlands offer a sustainable solution for waste-water management.

Imagine treating wastewater by using a biological process (using plants and microbes), without pumping that achieves greater quality levels than a waste treatment plant, provides a park-like amenity, and produces water suitable for irrigation. It sounds to me like a solution that’s right for Central Oregon. Ascent Partner Stacey Stemach, a City sewer advisory committee and Building a Better Bend board member, knows well the struggles the City is facing in dealing with an aging and out grown sewer system.

Brown made a compelling argument that these types of system could be used to help solve some of the issues with Bend’s sewer system and could also be a great fit for areas like the South County of Deschutes, which deals with high ground water and the potential for contamination from traditional septic systems.

A system as Brown described could serve a cluster of homes or a neighborhood or a whole city. In my opinion, a system that helps lessen the burden on the city’s infrastructure, and create irrigation water that could be used to water lawns or parks, is worth further investigation. The resulting bioswales are beautiful as well as functional.

After Brown’s presentation, my wife even asked me, “Could we put one of these in our backyard?”

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