Reed bed's are natures sewage and purification system, Phragmites australis, septic tank, sewage, slurry, waste water, foul, contaminated land runoff, effluent, DIY
Diagrams showing how a basic reed bed sewage system works, with either vertical or horizontal beds
Unfortunately we still have those with powerful vested interests who seek to protect their profits rather then consider alternative money making possibilities. Their main objection is that reed beds use too much land and take more time to return clean water, compared with present de facto standard systems.
This excuse is partially true, but the land usage and process time issues are spurious because design has leapt forward in leaps and bounds superceding these arguments.
However, we must not forget the negative influences of politics, job creation schemes, and tax revenues.
Reed bed design has moved on and it is now quite conceivable to build a grey/waste
water treatment system for reuse in the back garden of an average sized three or
four bedroom house. A detached house with a large garden can now be considered for
an integrated reed bed sewage treatment system, and return water for reuse and compost
for the garden, without smell and risk of infection. Reed beds are no longer dependant
upon large flat areas-
Diagram of a mini domestic reed system
So, after all the ballyhoo about whether reed beds work we are left with a situation where individuals must make up their own minds. However, you may not have to go it alone. There are some Government agencies and local authorities who are mindful of water conservation and possible future problems. They are getting their act together and actively helping people realize their ambitions.
You do not have to be held to ransom over whether your plot meets certain criteria, making it viable or not. The bureaucracy of forms and regulations are the result of many years of monopolies and protectionism.
Now we know a little about the history of reed bed politics in the UK let's look at the positive side of the argument, and the ease with which we can incorporate a reed bed into your design. We all have our own ideas as to why we want a reed bed, and the most common question is can we have one? In many cases the answer is yes, but you must ask the right people, for advice.
Essentially reed beds are a great alternative when considering building on virgin ground, very old land with specific historic features, or brown land. The main advantage is financial, because it can be as much as 30% cheaper to incorporate a reed system than a present day underground system. Reed beds also blend in naturally without disturbing the surroundings.
Animal waste can also be treated very effectively without huge setup costs, whether the animals are pets or commercial. Reed beds are also cheap to run and maintain compared with established sewage systems, and more importantly are under your control
The simplicity of reed beds belies their effectiveness, and specialist contractors are not always required if the design is sound and followed to the letter
Much has been written about reed beds by academics around the world and rather than make things more easily understood they have greatly confused and complicated issues.
The simplicity of the workings of reed beds often seems to defeat the brains of the
best, because they are looking for more than there is. The reed bed is a home for
colonies of bacteria that breakdown the nutrients from the inflow, whatever it may
be, and leave the outflow as cleaner water. These bacteria have been on our planet
for millions of years doing their job -
In many cases a reed bed, or reeds, can be incorporated into another more conventional system. I believe that no septic tank or underground sewage treatment system is complete without a reed bed incorporated into the landscaping plan.
Why? Well basically because accidents happen and overflows occur and floods change dynamics. It is not always possible to detect overflow or leachate problems from such systems unless it is constantly monitored. A reed bed will prevent contaminated water entering a water course, or worse, souring the land.
Most people with general gardening knowledge, or interest can run and maintain a reed bed with a little help, and adding bacteria supplements is totally safe. Sampling is also very easy to do and again very safe.
The simplicity of reed beds belies their effectiveness, and specialist contractors are not always required if the design is sound and followed to the letter. Many problems with reed beds arise from cutting corners and deviating from the design on the pretext that we have not got the time now and we will sort it out later. Of course later never comes.
DO’S AND DON’TS
· DON'T -
· DON’T cut corners.
· DON’T allow anyone else to have more knowledge about your system than you have.
· DON'T be put off by bar room pundits -
· DON’T talk down to local authority officers or planners, educate them onto your side.
· DO incorporate the bed into the landscape either as a feature or background.
· DO consult the EA or their publications.
· DO plan for expansion
· DO be aware of the terrain around your site.
· DO believe a reed bed is an affordable solution.
Andrew Seall is an independent designer who has many years experience of practical solutions for industrial and domestic situations.
01933 278 122
I just love the sound of a reed bed, a cross between the ocean waves and a mountaintop breeze. Legend has it that that the Greek god of the fields, Pan, loved Syrinx a beautiful nymph, who turned into a reed bed, and when the breeze blows through the reeds you can hear her haunting melodies. They can be stunning, visually, or can be blended into the landscape almost invisibly. And all this while working for you to make clean water and land.
African legend has it that the human race came from a reed, the most beautiful image on the planet. In Australia the Aboriginal tribes gave thanks to the reeds for saving animals in a great drought.
It was to take years for the pendulum to swing the other way and for people to start
looking for cheaper, and dare I say it, more environmentally-
All the while, the UK began to lag behind the rest of the world who had, in many cases, taken on board the commercial and political benefits of reed beds.
Today reed beds are used in reasonable numbers, but only as a token, to polish the final outflow from sewage treatment, with some areas more committed than others.