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Water Wednesday Recap – Wetlands

May is the National Wetlands Month. Hence, Water Wednesday in May featured wetlands.

What is a wetland?

A wetland is an area that is inundated (flooded) or saturated (soaked) by ground or surface water frequently or for prolonged periods. Because water levels in wetlands can fluctuate, the presence of water by ponding, flooding or soil saturation is not always a good indication that an area is a wetland; other characteristics have to be taken into account.

Wetlands are ecosystems typically found on the transition between terrestrial and aquatic systems. In order to be classified as a wetland, an area typically has at least one of the following 3 characteristics:

  • a water table at or near the ground’s surface during the growing season (including when the land is covered by shallow water)
  • poorly drained or hydric soils
  • be home to a unique diversity of wildlife and vegetation specifically adapted to thrive in wet environments. (Source: Florida Wetlands)

Watch the recording below to learn more about Florida’s Wetlands.

 

What is a constructed wetland?

Natural wetland systems have often been described as the “earth’s kidneys” because they filter pollutants from water that flows through on its way to receiving lakes, streams and oceans. Because these systems can improve water quality, engineers and scientists construct systems that replicate the functions of natural
wetlands. Constructed wetlands are treatment systems that use natural processes involving wetland vegetation, soils, and their associated microbial assemblages to improve water quality. The following documents provide additional information about constructed treatment wetlands. (Source: U.S. EPA)

Watch the recording below to learn more about Constructed Wetlands.

 

How to utilize wetlands to treat water?

In the United States, the use of natural wetlands to improve water quality was pioneered by researchers in Florida and Michigan, states that contain large acreages of natural wetlands. Today, natural wetlands are considered waters of the United States, and federal regulations discourage their use for wastewater treatment. Current regulations only allow natural wetlands to “polish” water, which has already received secondary or tertiary treatment.

A common practice is to construct a treatment wetland. Constructed wetlands are designed to mimic the natural biological, chemical, and physical processes of a wetland while allowing for greater flexibility and control. Constructed wetlands can provide some or all of the functions of secondary and tertiary treatment. Generally, they are built in uplands or outside of floodplains by establishing water control structures to create a desired hydrologic flow path. Although treatment wetlands require a large amount of land, they are more cost effective to operate and maintain than conventional methods of wastewater treatment because they require little energy and operational attention. (Source: Wetlands As A Tool For Water Treatment)

Watch the recording below to learn more about Wetlands As A Tool For Water Treatment.

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