The capacity of natural processes to renew and clean water is amazing. Soil filters water on its way to wells and springs. Plants and microorganisms act as a biological purifier. At Denmark Farm Conservation Centre, we are harnessing these natural attributes to create a Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (WET) System, in anticipation of increased sewerage loads when our new guest accommodation is completed.
A WET System has specially designed and constructed ponds and earth banks, densely planted with wetland trees and marginal plants. As wastewater flows through, it is both purified by microbiological action and transpired by growing plants. In the process, a beautiful, species-rich wildlife habitat is created, including a willow resource that can be used for basketry, hurdles, garden features or fuel, depending on the coppice cycle.
Additionally, a WET System requires minimal imports of resources – the site’s soil (rather than quarried gravel) filters the wastewater, fossil fuels are only consumed during construction and there is no ongoing electricity use. In fact, the whole process increases in efficiency over time, as new soil builds up and root systems extend – both of which also increase carbon dioxide storage as biomass, whereas conventional treatment systems need regular maintenance and energy inputs.
This ecosystem approach fits our philosophy of working with, rather than against nature. And the beauty of it is that we have fewer costs and many benefits. So why aren’t these systems more common? One hurdle may be lack of familiarity, which is where we come in. Our WET System is the first in Ceredigion and one of only a few in Wales – so far! As a demonstration site, we can show statutory bodies, trainees and visitors the potential for farms and other industries that have liquid organic waste. With biodiversity benefiting too, the future looks bright for wetland wildlife.
Text & photos adapted from Biologic Design
This November (12-13) there will be a Basket making weekend at Denmark Farm. This will be a chance for beginners to make one or two small baskets and for those with some previous experience to make something bigger – like a log or laundry basket. We will be weaving in some lovely hedgerow materials as well as basketry willow. There are still a few places left if you book soon: www.shared-earth-trust.org.uk/en/train.htm