A reed bed, or constructed wetland, is a natural form of domestic wastewater treatment. Reed bed systems are an effective, sustainable and aesthetic method of sewage treatment.
Benefits at a glance
No electricity required
Low running and lifetime cost
Provides additional habitat for wildlife
Types of Reed bed
There are two main types of reed bed. Horizontal and vertical flow.
Horizontal flow (HF) reed beds are shallow lined structures which are constantly flooded to just below the gravel line. The effluent enters at one end and travels horizontally through the reeds bacteria rich root zone, before being discharged on the far side of the bed. The Common Reed Phragmites Australis is able to transfer oxygen from its leaves, down through its stem and rhizomes into the gravels around the root system creating a high population of micro organisms.
Vertical flow (VF) reed beds are lined, deeper structures made up of layers of various sized gravels planted with reeds. It is a free draining structure where effluent is delivered to the top of the bed in batches (by gravity dosing unit or electrical pump), floods the surface of the bed and drains through. Each batch traps oxygen in the bed leading to an aerated system. VF systems are more effective than HF systems at ammonia removal due to increased oxygen levels within them. VF systems have a smaller footprint than HF systems and can cope with stronger effluents.
VF and HF beds can be installed together in a Hybrid system to achieve a higher standard of discharge or where influent strength is higher.
Reed beds do require maintenance, but not as much as you might think. In the first year or two (until the reeds are fully established) it will be necessary to weed the reed bed. This ensures that the reeds are the dominant species in the bed and the coverage is in excess of 70%, as specified by Environment Agency permitting. Once established, it is good practice to cut the reeds back to their bases at the end of each growing season to encourage new growth from the rhizomes. No other maintenance should be required.
Please note: when maintaining reed beds, protective clothing, gloves and eye wear should be worn. We currently have 17- year-old reed beds achieving EA permit criteria without the need for replacing the gravels. This has been achieved with regular simple maintenance of the bed and annual emptying of the preceding septic tank (as would be needed if the system was a soakaway system).
Why choose a reed bed?
Reed beds provide aesthetically pleasing, eco-friendly non-electrical alternatives to electrical sewage treatment plants. Historically, the reed bed was the only form on non-electrical sewage treatment available. However, with the advent of non-electrical package sewage treatment plants, reed beds are less frequently used for ‘secondary’ treatment (meaning the main form of biological treatment).
Reed beds are still frequently employed for tertiary treatment or for polishing sewage treatment plant effluent in order to reach stringent effluent quality requirements. Reed beds are also frequently employed to reduce flow rates to sensitive watercourses in the summer months from seasonal applications such as caravan parks. Finally, reed beds can also be adopted to provide a natural, aesthetically pleasing face to otherwise industrial-looking sewage treatment plants in applications where brand, desire or belief requires it.
Part of establishing the quiet, family-orientated Newton Brook Caravan and Camping in Somerset was to design a Building Control and Environment Agency (EA)-compliant foul drainage system. We employed WCI Sewage Treatment Ltd to liaise with the EA after we found ourselves out of our depth when the bespoke permit application we submitted was questioned. After talking through our issues with the very knowledgeable Naomi, WCI guided us through the process and a permit was awarded with a 5 ammonia standard. WCI went to tender for the most suitable system for our site and WPL designed the system. David Trump of WCI oversaw the installation of the large 400 pe. HiPAF System by our own contractors on a Saturday in April 2016. The installation was smooth and its operation has been faultless. WCI have been pivotal in getting our site up and running and open to the public. David has a wealth of knowledge gained from working all around the world, he is also very good at baking so I would suggest this is mentioned at the time of booking the first site meeting. We would not hesitate in recommending WCI.
Newton Brook Caravan and Camping, Somerset, April 2016
“Many, many thanks for such a brilliant job which David managed brilliantly on the day and reduced my stress levels no end! It might seem silly to hear, but it is SO good not to have to worry anymore as to how many times the toilet is flushed, or how many showers are being taken – which has been a constant stress for over 10 years. I wish I’d done it a lot sooner. Best regards to all at WCI and thank you so much.”
Lester Cottage, East Huntspill, May 2014
“We were very pleased with the professionalism and care taken by David Trump and his team in installing a Conder Sewage Treatment Plant. His dealing with the regulatory bodies was also very much appreciated. We would highly recommend WCI Sewage Treatment to anyone considering a new, or replacement sewage treatment plant.”
Max & Sally MacLean
Coldfeet Cottage, Wedmore, June 2013
“Thankfully we engaged WCI to advise us with the design for our replacement domestic sewage system, and the advice, knowledge and positive approach from both you and David was invaluable. You have been extremely patient with us and the weather. The treatment plant and reed bed were simple to install and construct and at long last we have a system that not only works but it works really well! It was a welcome relief to find a local company to help us, thank you for all that you did.”
Bovey Cottage, June 2013
“David’s advice and clear explanations from the start were reassuring. The team were punctual, efficient and got on with the job: everything you’d want PLUS they landscaped the area, leaving it better than it had been before the job was done. We are very pleased with the end result.”
The Spinney, May 2013
“WCI Sewage did an excellent job. David Trump was knowledgeable and professional. We knew we had found an expert in the field but equally important to us was that David was so approachable and helpful. He had a positive, ‘can do’ attitude. We would recommend WCI Sewage to anyone.”
Overbrook, Somerset, December 2012
Get in touch
Call WCI01984 623404