Effect of hydraulic loading on bioremediation of municipal wastewater using constructed wetland planted with vetiver grass, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Gravel-based pilot horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland planted with vetiver grass (Vitiveria zinaniodes) and unplanted operated at two hydraulic loading rates: 0.025 m/d and 0.05 m/d was carried out over a 3-year period. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of plant and hydraulic loading rate on the organic and nutrient removal performance of the constructed wetland system planted with vetiver grass (Vitiveria zinaniodes) in the removal of chemical oxygen demand (COD), total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP) from municipal wastewater. The removal efficiencies of COD, TN, and TP in the planted cell decreased from 95 to 90.8%, 95.2 to 86.8% and 95.2 to 88.5%, respectively, with an increase in HLR from 0.025 to 0.05 m/d. The estimated above-ground biomass of dry weights of vetiver harvested ranged from 10.1 to 10.3 kg DW/m2, the nutrients uptake increased with plant age from 2.4 to 14.6 g N/kg DW and 0.8 to 8.5 g P/kg DW and above-ground biomass nutrient standing stock ranged from 147.5 to 150.4 g N/m2 and 85.5 to 87.5 g P/m2 in 16 months. The higher removal efficiency of COD, TN, and TP was achieved in HSSFCW planted with vetiver grass as compared to unplanted at both hydraulic loading rate operations. The results concluded that both applications of HLR are capable of removing organic matter and nutrients efficiently and vetiver grass can be used for remediation of pollutants in municipal wastewater in Addis Ababa.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. 1.

    Amenu D (2014) Characterisation of wastewater and evaluation of the effectiveness of the wastewater treatment system in slaughterhouses. Res J Chem Environ Sci 2(6):20–27

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Avila C, Bayona J, Martinc S, Salas J, Garcia J (2015) Emerging organic contaminant removal in a full scale hybrid constructed wetland system for wastewater treatment and reuse. Ecol Eng 80:108–116

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Chavan B, Dhulap V (2012) Sewage treatment with constructed wetland using panicum maximum forage grass. J Environ Sci Water Res 1:223–230

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Sani A, Dareini F (2014) Treatment of hospital wastewater by vetiver and typical reed plants at wetland. Indian J Fundam Appl Life Sci 4:890–897

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Tadesse A, Eshetu L, Andualem M, Seyoum L (2016) Performance of pilot scale anaerobic-SBR system integrated with constructed wetlands for the treatment of tannery wastewater. Environ Process. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40710-016-0171-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Vymazal J (2005) Horizontal subsurface flow and hybrid constructed wetland systems for wastewater treatment. Ecol Eng 25:478–490

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Vymazal J (2014) Constructed wetland for treatment of industrial wastewater: a review. Ecol Eng 73:724–751

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Baskar G, Deepth V, Annadurai R (2014) Comparison of treatment performance between constructed wetlands with different plants. IJRET 3(4):210–214

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Li Y, Zhu J, Zhai Z, Zhang Q (2010) Endophytic bacterial diversity in roots of Phragmites australis in constructed Beijing Cuihu Wetland (China). FEMS Microbiol Lett 309(1):84–93

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Sehar S, Sumera Naeem S, Perveen I, Ali N, Ahmad S (2015) A comparative study of macrophytes influence on wastewater treatment through subsurface flow hybrid constructed wetland. Ecol Eng 81:62–69

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Tuncsiper B, Drizo A, Twohig E (2015) Constructed wetlands as a potential management practice for cold climate dairy effluent treatment in the USA. Catena 135:184–192

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Choudhary AK, Kumar S, Sharma C (2011) Constructed wetlands: an approach for wastewater treatment. Elixir Pollut 37:3666–3672

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Cakir R, Gidirislioglu A, Cebi U (2015) A study on effects of different hydraulic loading rate (HLR) on pollutant removal efficiency of subsurface horizontal flow constructed wetland used for treatment of domestic wastewaters. J Environ Manag 164:121–128

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Bodin H (2013) Wastewater treatment in constructed wetlands: effects of vegetation, hydraulics and data analysis methods. Dissertation, Linköping Studies in Science and Technology, Sweden

  15. 15.

    Wu S, Austin D, Liu L, Dong R (2011) Performance of integrated household constructed wetland for domestic wastewater in rural areas. Ecol Eng 37:948–954

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    USEPA (2000) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Constructed Wetland Treatment of Municipal Wastewaters. Office of Research and Development, Cincinnati, Ohio

  17. 17.

    Angassa K, Leta S, Mulat W, Kloos H, Meers E (2018) Organic matter and nutrient removal performance of horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetlands planted with Phragmites karka and Vetiveria zizanioide for treating municipal wastewater. Environ Process 5(1):115–130

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Astuti JT, Sriwuryandari L, Sembiring T (2018) Application of vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) on phytoremediation of carwash wastewater. Pertanika J Trop Agric Sci 41:1463–1477

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Henze M, Comeau Y (2008) Wastewater characterization. In: Henze M, van Loosdrecht MCM, Ekama GA, Brdjanovic D (eds) Biological wastewater treatment: principles, modelling and design. IWA Publishing, London, pp 33–52

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Konnerupa D, Koottatep T, Brix H (2009) Treatment of domestic wastewater in tropical subsurface constructed wetlands planted with canna and heliconia. Ecol Eng 35:248–257

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Brisson J, Chazarenc F (2009) Maximizing pollutant removal in constructed wetlands: should we pay more attention to macrophyte species selection? Sci Total Environ 407:3923–3930

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Vergeles Y, Vystavna Y, Ishchenko A et al (2015) Assessment of treatment efficiency of constructed wetlands in east Ukraine. Ecol Eng 83:159–168

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Ghosh D, Gopal B (2010) Effect of hydraulic retention time on the treatment of secondary effluent in a sub-surface flow constructed wetland. Ecol Eng 36(8):1044

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Kadlec RH, Wallace SD (2009) Treatment wetlands, 2nd edn. CRC Press, Boca Raton

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Ewemoje OE, Sangodoyin AY, Adegoke A (2015) On the effect of hydraulic retention time and loading rates on pollutant removal in a pilot scale wetland. Dev Sustain ISSN Stud Eng Environ 8:342–355

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Saeed T, Sun G (2012) A review on nitrogen and organics removal mechanisms in subsurface flow constructed wetlands: dependency on environmental parameters, operating conditions and supporting media. J Environ Manag 112:429–448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.08.011

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Shuib N, Baskaran K (2015) Effects of different substrates and hydraulic retention time (HRT) on the removal of total nitrogen and organic matter in a sub-surface horizontal flow constructed wetland. Int J Environ Cult Econ Soc Sustain 7:227–241. https://doi.org/10.18848/1832-2077/CGP/v07i05/55000

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Paing J, Guilbert A, Gagnon V, Chazarenc F (2015) Effect of climate, wastewater composition, loading rates, system age and design on the performance of French vertical flow constructed wetlands: a survey based on 169 full scale systems. Ecol Eng 80:46–52

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Vymazal J (2010) Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment. Water 2:530–549

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Ong SA, Ho LN, Wong YS et al (2011) Semi-batch operated constructed wetlands planted with Phragmites australis for treatment of dyeing wastewater. J Eng Sci Technol 6:623–631. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procbio.2006.02.014

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Vymazal J, Kropfelova L (2008) Wastewater treatment in constructed wetlands with horizontal sub-surface flow, vol 14. Springer, Dordrecht

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Austine O (2017) Evaluating the effectives of constructed wetland in polishing wastewater from gusii plant in Kisii Town. University of Nairobi, Kenya

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Mburu N, Tebitendwa SM, Rousseau DPL et al (2013) Performance evaluation of horizontal subsurface flow—constructed wetlands for the treatment of domestic wastewater in the tropics. J Environ Eng 139:358–367. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Lee CG, Fletcher TD, Sun G (2009) Nitrogen removal in constructed wetland systems. Eng Life Sci 9:11–22. https://doi.org/10.1002/elsc.200800049

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Nivala J, Wallace S, Headley T et al (2012) Oxygen transfer and consumption in subsurface flow treatment wetlands. Ecol Eng. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpowsour.2010.09.101

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Akratos CS, Tsihrintzis VA (2007) Effect of temperature, HRT, vegetation and porous media on removal efficiency of pilot-scale horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetlands. Ecol Eng 29:173–191

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Boonsong K, Chansiri M (2008) Efficiency of vetiver grass cultivated with floating platform technique in domestic wastewater treatment. AU J Technol 12(2):73–80

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Vymazal J (2007) Removal of nutrients in various types of constructed wetlands. Sci Total Environ 380:48–65

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Lishenga IW, Nyaanga DM, Owino JO, Wambua RM (2015) Efficacy of hydroponic and soil-based vetiver systems in the treatment of domestic wastewater. Int J Pure Appl Sci Technol 26(2):53–63

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Albalawneh A, Chang TK, Chou CS, Naoum S (2016) Efficiency of a horizontal sub-surface flow constructed wetland treatment system in an arid area. Water (Switzerland) 8:1–14. https://doi.org/10.3390/w8020051

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Truong P, Danh LT (2015) The Vetiver system for improving water quality: prevention and treatment of contaminated water and land, 2nd edn. The Vetiver Network International

  42. 42.

    Seroja R, Effendi H, Hariyadi S (2018) Tofu wastewater treatment using vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) and zeliac. Appl Water Sci 8:2. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13201-018-0640-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Gottschall N, Boutin C, Crolla A et al (2017) The role of plants in the removal of nutrients at a constructed wetland treating agricultural (dairy) wastewater, Ontario, Canada. Ecol Eng 29:154–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2006.06.004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Button M, Nivala J, Weber KP, Aubron T, Muller RA (2015) Microbial community metabolic function in subsurface flow constructed wetlands of different designs. Ecol Eng 80:162–171

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources, Addis Ababa University (AAU) who supervised the financial support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Research Fund for International Young Scientists (Grant Agreement No: W/5799-1). The authors are also thankful to the Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority for allowing developing the pilot-scale constructed wetland system in the premises of wastewater treatment plant and the laboratory facilities. The authors also acknowledge the University of Connecticut for the facility of access to electronic library and Ann Byers for editing the manuscript at short notice.


This work was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Research Fund for International Young Scientists (Grant Agreement No: W/5799-1).

Author information




KA conducted experiments in the field and wrote up the manuscript. SL, WM, HK, EM supervised the experimental site and structured, read, edited, and approved the final manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kenatu Angassa.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Angassa, K., Leta, S., Mulat, W. et al. Effect of hydraulic loading on bioremediation of municipal wastewater using constructed wetland planted with vetiver grass, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Nanotechnol. Environ. Eng. 4, 6 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41204-018-0053-z

Download citation


  • Bioremediation
  • Constructed wetland
  • Hydraulic loading rate
  • Municipal wastewater
  • Vetiver grass