The pollutants in wastewater act as nutrients for the trees and plants and also help yield higher fuel wood biomass
Plants and trees have been traditionally valued for their role in cleaning the air, generating wood and generating biomass. In recent years, their property of purifying water has emerged to be useful in bringing down pollution.
Tree such as eucalyptus, poplar and salix are used in short rotation for biomass energy. These species and agricultural crops are usually irrigated with fresh water. But what happens if they are irrigated with grey water (domestic wastewater from laundry, bathing and dishwashing)?
Domestic wastewater is enriched with nitrates, phosphates, sodium and potassium. When this water is used for irrigation, the roots of plants and trees suck up the pollutants and leave behind cleaner water.
The pollutants in wastewater act as nutrients for the trees and plants and also help yield higher fuel wood biomass. The process of uptake of pollutants from wastewater through tree roots and convertion into less toxic form is called dendroremediation. When plants perform the same thing, it is known as Phytoremediation.
These techniques are also more cost-effective than conventional wastewater treatment. Casurina and dendrocalamus can reduce nitrogen by 61-76 per cent, phosphorus by 18-70 per cent and biological oxygen demand by 80-94 per cent from wastewater.
Dendro- or phytoremediation techniques involve extraction, degradation, rhizofiltration, dendrostabilisation, dendrovolatilisation and rhizodegradation:
This natural technology performs two functions simultaneously: Purifying wastewater while also getting higher biomass from trees, leading to greater economic benefits.
It has been reported that eucalyptus hybrid k-143 has shown 25 per cent higher biomass growth when irrigated with polluted water. The biomass of poplar and salix trees have also doubled and quadrupled when fertigated with domestic wastewater.
Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect that of Down To Earth.
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