Artificial wetland improves water quality

Published 03 December 2008

pducat.jpgAn artificial wetland at the Armidale Golf Course has been constructed to demonstrate an environmentally sustainable approach to improving the quality of water used for irrigating the greens and fairways.

The wetland was constructed as part of a NSW Environmental Trust project coordinated by Dr Darren Ryder from the University of New England. The project aims to develop best-practice restoration techniques for streams in regional towns. One example is to demonstrate to local councils that constructed wetlands can be used to treat water before it enters local waterways as part of broader revegetation programs.

The Mayor, Councillor Peter Ducat (pictured here), officially commissioned the wetland at a ceremony last month. He commended it as a solution to water quality issues that was both economical and environmentally friendly, and a model that could be used by other councils and industries.

“The artificial wetland at the Armidale Golf Course was designed using methods of water filtration that are seen in natural wetlands and rivers, with the aim of improving water quality and improving conditions for local flora and fauna,” said Dr Ryder, a Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Environmental and Rural Science.

The filtering of the water involves passing it through a series of collection bays and settling ponds containing gravel, wooden logs and plant matter that mimic processes that occur in healthy streams.

“As the water meanders through each of the bays and ponds a different natural process takes place,” Dr Ryder explained. “The first gravel bed has a slow water flow, which allows the fine sediment and organic matter to settle on the floor of the pond. The process continues with the second cell of gravel beds, where the water flows through reeds that remove nutrients from the water and over time form a peat layer over the gravel to help reduce the alkalinity of the water.

“The water then leaves the artificial wetland by cascading down a rock chute into a large storage dam. It is aerated as it passes down the chute, increasing the concentration of oxygen in the main dam and thus improving the habitat for wetland plants and animals. A large fountain has also been placed in the main dam to circulate water and minimise algal blooms.”

In an effort to seek a solution that was both economical and environmentally friendly, the Golf Club’s Course Superintendent, Warren Lawler, approached Dr Ryder. Their objective was not only to find a solution to the Club’s immediate water quality issues, but also to develop a model that could be used by other industries.

“The Club believes that the successful implementation of this first stage is not only a credit to its course maintenance staff and members of the School of Environmental and Rural Science at UNE, but that the project could serve as a model for other community organisations and groups who wish to improve the water quality of dams and waterways at minimal cost and in an environmentally sustainable manner,” Mr Lawler said.

For more technical information about the processes involved, contact Dr Darren Ryder at UNE on 02 6773 5226, or e-mail dryder2@une.edu.au.

A PHOTOGRAPH of Dr Darren Ryder and Councillor Peter Ducat, taken beside the wetland on the day it was commissioned, can be seen by clicking on the image of Councillor Ducat displayed here.