Reed Beds as Greywater Treatment

vegetal shower concept design

Reeds in natural ecosystems

Have you ever wandered along a lake, pond or river and noticed how reeds love having their feet in the water?
These tall, grass-like plants of wetlands not only provide habitat for small mammals, dragonflies and birds, they also prevent erosion of the beds and banks of water bodies where they grow, and together with the sand and pebbles, act as formidable water filtration systems. They do so by breaking-down waste in water, filtering-out sediments and removing heavy metals [1]. Then, water trickling through reeds is cleaned by micro-organisms living on the root system and in the litter. These organisms utilize the sewage for growth nutrients, resulting in a clean effluent without addition of chloride or fluoride [2].

reed beds as water filtration systems
reed beds as water filtration systems

Photos by Permaculture Journeys (Omeo, VIC)

reed beds as water filtration systems

Reed beds in permaculture systems

The observation and mimicry of natural ecosystems is the foundation of permaculture. It is therefore logical that permaculturists have widely adopted reed beds as a mean to clean and recycle greywater, which then returns to the environment. This is also an example of a a closed-loop system.

Every time you shower or wash the dishes, the greywater is directed to the reed beds through a pipe and sinks into loose pebbles, gravel and coarse sand. There, micro-organisms adapted to low oxygen conditions break-down the majority of pollutants [3]. Physical friction against the gravel also filters-out the silt, organic matter and other small particles. 

The water then joins a small pond and keeps travelling through reeds, weeds and grasses. Watercress, water lilies and water hyacinths are good example of species that further clean the water. Last, a system of swales can eventually redistribute the water to vegetable gardens, greenhouses or food forests.

reed beds in permaculture systems

The more creative and adventurous who enjoy showering outdoors could even create a vegetal shower based on the principle of reed beds, such as this concept developed by designers Jun Yasamoto, Alban Le Henry, Olivier Pigasse and Vincent Vandenbrouck [4].

vegetal shower concept design

They are many greywater treatment systems and reed beds are an aesthetic, easy and efficient option. Just make sure to only use soaps and detergents that are non-toxic and free from harsh chemicals. 
You can visit our shop if you need new cleaning or personal care products. All our items are non-toxic and contain natural ingredients only.

Don’t forget to also install an additional cleaning column and filter on your taps, as well as to send water samples to a lab to confirm its safety if you decide to return it to the house through a pump and drink it.


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