The Value of Water


“Why is water important?”  This was the question which we asked each of our attendees to think about as they walked into our event. One had written down quite the obvious point that ‘Water equals life’.

Here in Australia, the rate of water wastage and also negligence toward using water to its full capacity undermines how vital this precious resource is. Our latest Spotlight presenter, Des Menz, shared with us how we can begin to reverse this short-shortsightedness through the use of reed beds. Referring to himself as a ‘country bloke’ engineer based in Clare, Des has been successfully using reed beds to naturally treat grey and black water for many years .  His principle is simple: capture, store, treat and reuse on site.

For those of us who are unfamiliar with reed bed construction, they are essentially shallow beds filled with gravel and aquatic plants  which as a system  filter  water.  The grey water goes through a primary treatment system where large particles are removed.  The water them moves to secondary treatment (the reed bed) where oxygen produced by the plants aids removal of bacteria and viruses and other such nasties and the plants themselves filter out smaller suspended organic matter such as fats, oils and dirt.  The filtered water is then pumped into storage tanks and commonly reused for irrigation.  This system is therefore perfect in places such as schools and large residential communities (rural or urban) who seek natural waste water management and have large areas of lawn or garden that requires irrigation.  Des has assisted quite a few communities such as these establish their own natural waste water management systems such as Watervale Primary School and Booleroo Community School.

Here is a summary of what we learned are the benefits of utilizing reed bed systems:
Odour free (subsurface system)They blend into the landscape and -add to natural biodiversityEliminates waste water treatment feesCan be used in rural and in urban settings – in more urban areas you can create an easement and several properties can join in to the one system!Higher success rate than traditional septic systems (which, in South Australia around 40% – 50% of septic systems fail)Reduces evaporation of waste waterYou can make one yourself! (But you will need a plumber to do the final hook up and an electrician to wire up the pump)The Q&A session was, as always, extremely buoyant and interactive and one of the first questions that was asked was, what is stopping the general population from treating their own wastewater on site?  If they’re so easy to make and maintain, why don’t we all have one?   This boils down to two restrictions: size of land (generally a block of about 700m2 minimum is required to set up this system), but more pertinently, mind set.  Yet again, the hurdle of society behavior change appears again.  But that’s why people like Des are around.  To chip away and create change.

Des has done some amazing work, which we hope continues to become a common outcome here in South Australia.  It was an extremely informative evening and to leave you with some of his parting words, “Empower yourselves about waste water.  Take control!”

If you would like to know more from Des about Reed Beds, he has recently published “The Reed Bed Book”.  Please see the following link for more information.–manuals/the-reed-bed-book.html

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