Constructed wetlands are artificial wastewater treatment systems consisting of shallow ponds or channels which have aquatic plants, and which rely upon natural microbial, biological, physical and chemical processes to treat wastewater. A treatment wetland “has lots of advantages, but such systems haven’t yet been embraced,” Luthy says. “One of the things we would like to do is think about how to better utilize treatment wetlands to improve water quality and urban esthetics. Wetlands are attractive. Many people wish they had a home near one. When was the last time you wished your home was near a sewage facility?”
The researchers also will try to find new ways to capture, clean and recycle water, such as storm water or sewer overflow, in order to deliver it to aquatic systems that otherwise are water-starved, or for irrigation. “There may be some streams or rivers that used to flow more, and for which the ecosystem could be enhanced by this recycled water,” Luthy says.
“The water problem is complex,” he adds. “We have a spectrum of projects, not just one thing. To reinvent the urban water infrastructure will require a number of innovative solutions, and we hope to come up with many of them.”