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Integrated Ecological Water Technology

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Galen Fulford (Forres, UK)


Keyword(s): Sub-theme 4: Infrastructure development,
AbstractIntroduction
In a world where urbanization is continuously expanding, and current global trends in population predict that 60% more food will be needed by 2050, the sensitive management of water systems has a history of being marginalized.

Addressing the issues in this field of water management is becoming an increasingly vital responsibility; engaging with important global issues of intensive agriculture, surface water pollution, water scarcity, water sanitation and habitat degradation.

Current standard approaches to centralised urban wastewater treatment are highly energy intensive, and often require chemicals. Internationally we see water quality and habitat being compromised due to insensitively designed hard-edged urban waterways.

These challenges demand new solutions. The team at Biomatrix Water sees this as a dynamic opportunity to develop innovative solutions for waterway restoration, natural approaches to wastewater treatment and water reclamation.

Methods/Materials
Biomatrix have focused their resources on the research and technical development of hybridized technologies. Working in a specialized field where the two worlds of technical engineering and ecological thinking converge, we have employed biomimicry processes, innovative engineering design and the use of durable modern materials, to develop technology and systems which optimize the conditions for ecological processes to reactivate, and bring compromised water resources back into natural balance.

Informed by approaches and designs utilized in reedbed, Living Machine and wetland water treatment systems, Biomatrix has been working to integrate the best features of these well-proven ecological treatment systems, whilst overcoming previous system constraints and limitations.

The solution we focus on; the Biomatrix Floating Ecosystem module is a buoyant platform, with integrated growing media and planted ecologies, chosen specifically for their water treatment capacities. The modules are scalable, reconfigurable, modular, and float up and down with changing water levels. This allows them to be applied in lots of different circumstances. Installation is quick and simple, and provides an alternative solution to expensive, high cost and energy intensive civil works.

In addition to the Floating Ecosystem module, further studies of the natural systems of nutrient absorption seen in coral reefs, led us to design the biomimicry inspired Dynamic Media Column. Beneath the water surface Dynamic Media columns and suspended roots promote the establishment of beneficial aquatic biofilms, which cleanse the water through the breakdown, sorption and metabolic transformation of nutrients and impurities.

This Floating Ecosystem design can be utilised within both waterway and wastewater system applications, to allow these water systems to naturally cleanse themselves. Within wastewater treatment services, where optimized treatment timeframes are necessary, the addition of low-energy aeration to the system helps to accelerate the natural treatment processes.

Results and Discussion
Floating plants have the ability to absorb 
1.5g/m^2 Nitrogen and 0.1g/m^2 more Phosphorus than they would on shore. Through the utilization of Biomatrix's Floating Ecosystems, we have found that full spectrum waterway ecosystems absorb excess nutrients incorporating them productively in healthy and attractive enhanced aquatic food chains, while reducing their availability to algae, lemna and other aquatic weeds. This decreases overgrowths as a result of the water ecosystem being rebalanced.

Harnessing the power of nature into natural wastewater systems, dramatically reduces capital costs, as well as energy use requirements. Capital construction costs are typically half as expensive than conventional or package treatment systems including collection with equivalent capacity, and operation costs are also significantly reduced. In addition risks of Combined Sewage Overflows seen in existing conventional systems are eliminated.

The use of Dynamic Media columns vastly increases the treatment capacity and biofilms per m^2. As a result the large footprint size inherent in alternative ecological treatment systems such as reedbeds, is reduced due to the optimized efficiency of treatment in relation to surface area.

The thorough breakdown of nutrients seen in the rebalancing of the natural ecosystem, provides a higher quality effluent, which can be re-used for many applications without the use of any harsh chemicals. Reclaimable and re-usable effluent increases water security.
Through the establishment of thriving ecosystems, natural habitat for all levels of the food chain is considerably increased. We have observed increases in water life such as insects and macrophytes, which in turn increases and stabilizes biodiversity further up the food chain in fish, birds and mammals.

Conclusion
Biomatrix Water's hybridized technologies for water management combine the potent integration of innovative ecologically centered approaches and practical engineering thinking.

The future of providing sustainable and resilient approaches to urban and agricultural development, requires the integration of ecosystems services into the built environment. We endeavor to work within existing structures, introducing a new vision for water management, in order to affect deeper systemic change to infrastructures in the long-term, meet Water Framework Directive targets, and protect and restore watercourses internationally.

Utilised in waterways, our Floating Ecosystems provide rich riparian habitat for lakes, canals and rivers. They facilitate the natural processes and ecology of the river to rebalance itself, leaving waterways revitalised and flourishing.

Biomatrix's latest Wastewater Treatment design; The Helix Flow Reactor, provides an de-centralised and scalable, low cost natural solution to the future of wastewater treatment. One of our hopes is that it will have a positive impact within issues of water sanitation, and health in Sustainable Development applications.

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