Establishment of a constructed wetland in extreme dryland
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Background, aim, and scope
The project was set to construct an extensive wetland in the southernmost region of Israel at Kibbutz Neot Smadar (30°02′45″ N and 35°01′19″ E). The results of the first period of monitoring, summary, and perspectives are presented. The constructed wetland (CW) was built and the subsequent monitoring performed in the framework of the Southern Arava Sustainable Waste Management Plan, funded by the EU LIFE Fund. The specific aims were: (1) To end current sewage disposal and pollution of the ground, the aquifer, and the dry river bed (wadi) paths by biologically treating the sewage as part of the creation of a sustainable wetland ecosystem. (2) Serve as an example of CW in the Negev highlands and the Arava Valley climates for neighboring communities and as a test ground for plants and building methods appropriate to hyper arid climate. (3) Serve as an educational resource and tourist attraction for groups to learn about water reuse, recycling, local wildlife and migrating birds, including serving the heart of a planned Ecological–Educational Bird Park. This report is intended to allow others who are planning similar systems in hyper arid climates to learn from our experience.
Materials and methods
The project is located in an extreme arid desert with less than 40 mm of rain annually and temperature ranges of −5°C to +42°C. The site receives 165–185 m3 of municipal and agricultural wastes daily, including cowshed and goat wastes and winery outflow.
The CW establishment at Neot Smadar was completed in October 2006. For 8 months, clean water flowed through the system while the plants were taking root. In June 2007, the wetland was connected to the oxidation pond and full operation began. Because of seepage and evaporation, during the first several months, the water level was not high enough to allow free flow from one bed to the next. To bed A, the water was pumped periodically from the oxidation pond (Fig. 1) and from there flowed by gravitation through the rest of the system. The initial results of the monitoring are promising. In nearly all measurements, the system succeeded as expected to reduce levels of contaminants at least to the level acceptable for irrigating fruit trees and often to the level of unlimited irrigation. The introduction of the plants in the system and their physiological performance were evaluated and were found to correlate well to the quality of water in the various beds.
It should be said at the outset that evaluation of the performance of a CW system is a long-term process. Thus, the main aim of this report is to present the problems, difficulties, preliminary results, and concepts concerned with the first stage of establishment of CW in an extremely dry region.
The CW system was designed to dispose of municipal and agricultural wastes in a way that not merely reduces pollution, but adds to environmental quality by creating accessible parkland for local residents and tourists. Several factors affected the performance of the system at the initial stages of operation: ecological balance between microbes and plants, big seasonal variations, seepage and evaporation reduced the flow in the initial operation of the system. Despite the initial difficulties, the quality of water coming out the system is acceptable for irrigation.
Recommendations and perspectives
The CW can function well under extreme dryland conditions. The oxidation pond was the major source of evaporation and bad odors. Therefore, alternatives to the oxidation pond are needed. Cost effectiveness of the system still has to be evaluated systematically.
KeywordsConstructed wetland Desert Dryland Environment Plant stress Wastewater Water quality
This project was funded by the EU LIFE fund. The CWs were planned and designed by Eli Cohen—Ayala Water and Ecology and Yael Ben Zvi of Ofra Aqua Plants, landscape design and construction by Kibbutz Neot Smadar. The Neot Smadar CW system was inaugurated on 25 October 2007 with the participation of the delegates of the COST 859 action “Phytotechnologies to Promote Sustainable Land Use And Improve Food Safety” to the workshop on “Nutrient Biofortification and Exclusion of Pollutants in Food Plants” that took place at The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
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