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Attenuation mechanisms and key parameters to enhance treatment performance in Vegetation Filters: A Review

The Soil and Water Quality group has just published the article “Attenuation mechanisms and key parameters to enhance treatment performance in Vegetation Filters: A Review” in open access in the Journal of Environmental Management (Pradana et al., 2021).

In times when environmental concerns are on the rise and the search for ways to reduce waste generation and create a circular economy is booming, Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) play a very important role. Vegetation Filters (VF) are a type of NBS in which wastewater is used to irrigate a forestry plantation to treat water and produce biomass. VFs present multiple benefits that make this technology a suitable solution for wastewater treatment, especially for scattered populations or isolated buildings that lack connection to sewage systems. The objective of this review is to provide a complete state of the art on VF implementation, highlighting the do's and don'ts for successful operation, and focusing on those factors that are essential for water treatment.

The results show that VFs have a high treatment capacity as long as all the factors involved are taken into account and that their effectiveness tends to increase over time as the VF develops and "gets older". The presence of fine-textured soils, the selection of a suitable plant species, the pretreatment of wastewater, and the establishment of an irrigation program based on water balance and alternating wetting and drying cycles are factors that help to achieve the best performance. However, a simple but rigorous operation and maintenance program must be designed and followed to avoid system failures, which could result in nitrate leaching towards groundwater.

This research has been developed within the BIOARBIO project "Generating Biomass with Regenerated Water: Opportunity for Circular Bioeconomy" (2020-2023), funded by Dirección General de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica/Consejería de Educación e Investigación de la Comunidad de Madrid (project reference IND2019/AMB-17191), and within FILVER+ “Water reclamation by using a new concept of land application systems” (2017-2020), grant CTM2016-79211-C2-1-R funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and by ERDF A way of making Europe. BIOARBIO is coordinated by Irene de Bustamante Gutiérrez (IMDEA Water), Borja González González (Grupo Eulen) and Hortensia Sixto Blanco (INIA-CS IC). FILVER+ is coordinated by Irene de Bustamante Gutiérrez.