Constructed wetlands (CWs) are natural wastewater treatment systems, which have been set up all over the world as an alternative to conventional intensive systems especially for the sanitation of small communities. There are three different types of CWs: horizontal, vertical and free surface flow CWs. These types of CWs may be combined with each other in hybrid CWs in order to exploit the specific advantages of the different systems.
The contents of this factsheet are results of the Indo-European Project NaWaTech- “Natural Water Systems and Treatment Technologies to cope with Water Shortages in Urbanised Areas in India”, co-financed by the EC and the DST – India.
Design and Construction Principles
Design of Hybrid Constructed Wetlands
Various CW configurations may be combined so as to fit different types of wastewater and to increase their treatment efficiency, especially for nitrogen. These hybrid systems are normally comprised of vertical flow (VF) followed by horizontal flow (HF) CWs. HF systems cannot provide nitrification because of their limited oxygen transfer capacity. VF systems, on the other hand, do provide good conditions for nitrification but denitrification does not really occur in these systems. Thenceforward, the strengths and weaknesses of each type of system balance each other out and in consequence it is possible to obtain an effluent low in BOD, ammonia-N and total-N concentrations (VYMAZAL 2005). In general, the design consists of two stages of several parallel VF beds (usually planted with Phragmites australis), followed by one or three horizontal beds (planted e.g. Typha or Carex). In these systems, the VF beds are loaded with pre-treated wastewater for 1–2 days, and then allowed to dry out for 4–8 days (VYMAZAL 2005). HRT can range between 1 and 5 days, while space required can be very variable depending on the design and the goals of the treatment (1-10 m2/PE). The efficiency achieved in terms of BOD, TSS, and total-N removal range between 60 and 95% depending on climate conditions. Free surface flow CWs as final treatment may contribute to water disinfection. Construction materials (such as gravel, sand, plastics) are generally low cost and available on site (GARCIA & CORZO 2008).
Operation and Maintenance
Basically, operation and maintenance is similar to HF or VF CWs. Operation and maintenance activities should focus on ensuring that primary treatment effectively reduces organics and solids concentrations before entering the wetland (TILLEY et al. 2008). The difficulty in hybrid constructed wetlands is also to ensure that the system is adjusted and the beds loaded correctly (HOFFMANN et al. 2010). That means it needs expert knowledge and trained operators. The most important concern in CWs is clogging. With time, the gravel will become clogged with accumulated solids and bacterial biofilm. The material may have to be replaced every 8 to 15 or more years.
Hybrid CWs are more expensive than non-hybrid CWs. A larger area is required and they are more complicated and complex to operate, especially for adjustment and monitoring of the loads (HOFFMANN et al. 2010). However, compared to other intensive high-rate treatment options (e.g. activated sludge), hybrid CWs are still less expensive.
Experiences in Europe and other Cities of the World
Many of these systems are derived from original hybrid systems developed by Seidel at the Max Planck Institute in Krefeld, Germany. The Seidel design consists of two stages of several parallel VF beds followed by two or three HF beds in series (VYMAZAL 2005). In the early 1980s, several hybrid systems of Seidel's type were built in France and in UK. In the 1990s and early 2000s, VF–HF systems were built in many European countries, e.g. in Slovenia, Norway, Austria, France and Ireland and now this type is getting more attention in most European countries (VYMAZAL 2005). In mid-1990s, JOHANSEN & BRIX (1996) introduced a HF–VF hybrid system. This system was implemented firstly in Darzlubie in Poland (OBARSKA-PEMPKOVIAK 1999). Recently, hybrid CW often includes a FWS stage. This design was implemented in different locations. In Italy, it was successfully used to treat concentrated winery wastewaters (MASI et al. 2002). In Montreal (Canada) it was implemented for domestic wastewater treatment (LAOUALI et al. 1996). At Yantian industry area in Shenzen City in southeast China, it is used to process industrial wastewater (WANG et al. 1994).
Experiences in India
Hybrid CWs are effective to remove organic matter, suspended solid and nutrients from landfill leachate, river polluted water, domestic, industrial, hospital, runoff and agricultural wastewaters in lab-scale, pilot-scale and full-scale with various configurations (SAYADI et al. 2012). Despite their versatility and their strong potential for application in small communities of developing countries, hybrid systems have not found widespread use in India, due to lack of awareness and local expertise in developing the technology on a local basis.
Nevertheless, different experiences took place in South Asia.
In South Korea 3-stage hybrid constructed wetlands (VF+HF+HF) for treating domestic sewage from individual housing units surrounding agricultural villages were implemented and evaluated. Removal efficiencies of BOD, COD, TSS, total nitrogen, and total phosphorous were 99, 98, 99, 83, and 75%, respectively (SEO et al. 2008).
During the last decade, different hybrid CW systems were implemented in Nepal (UN-HABITAT 2008):
- Hospital wastewater treatment (Dhulikhel Hospital): hybrid system HF+VF, 240 m2; operating since 1997, the system treats until 35-75 m3/day (386 PE at 2006) reaching COD removal of 80% or more;
- Institutional wastewater treatment (Kathmandu University), 628 m2 of hybrid CW system (HF+VF) able to treat 193 PE, running since 2001 with removal of organic matter and nitrogen up to 80%.
- Municipal wastewater treatment (Sunga, Thimi), 300 m2 of hybrid system (HF+VF) able to treat 285 PE, running since 2005 with removal of organic matter and suspended solids up to more than 80%.
- Septage and landfill leachate treatment (Pokhara), both in operation since 2003: the sludge drying reed bed is composed of 7 beds with an overall surface of 1,645 m2 and it is able to treat about 35 m3/day of septage; the CW for the leachate is a hybrid system HF+VF of 2,680 m2 and treats 40 m3/day.
In Taiwan, hybrid CW systems have received tremendous interests for water quality enhancement during the last years due to insufficient sewage treatment and groundwater deterioration (YEH & WU 2009). The performance of a field-scale hybrid CW system implemented at National University of Kaohsiung was assessed. The system included an oxidation pond, two serial surface flow wetlands with a cascade in between, and a subsurface flow wetland receiving secondary treated dormitory sewage. The results of the study showed an average TSS, BOD and COD removal efficiency of 86.7, 86.5 and 57.8%, respectively, while Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen and Ammonium decreased from 4.08 to 1.43 and 3.74 to 1.21mg/L, respectively (YEH & WU 2009).
For more information please visit: Hybrid Constructed Wetland
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme ([FP7/2007-2013]) under Grant Agreement N°  and the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India DS.O DST/IMRCD/NaWaTech/ 2012/(G).
Depuracion con Humedales Construidos: Guia Practica de Diseno, Construccion y Explotacion de Sistemas de Humedales de Flujo Subsuperficial
Este documento pretende cubrir un vacío en lengua española en el campo de los humedales, y en particular en su aplicación para tratar aguas residuales urbanas. Se trata de un texto eminentemente técnico.GARCIA, J. CORZO, A. (2008): Depuracion con Humedales Construidos: Guia Practica de Diseno, Construccion y Explotacion de Sistemas de Humedales de Flujo Subsuperficial. Barcelona: Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya URL [Accessed: 03.03.2013]
General Design and Performance of Reed and Emergent Hydrophyte Beds for Domestic Wastewater Treatment in Quebec, Canada
Three different multistage constructed wetland plants for wineries wastewater treatment, located in central Italy, have been monitored and designed by the IRIDRA Ltd engineering firm. This paper presents the principal design specifications, a description of the plant operations and the analyses of influent and effluent characteristics (pH, COD, BOD5, TN, TP, TSS).MASI, F. CONTE, G. MARTINUZZI, N. PUCCI, B. (2002): Winery High Organic Content Wastewaters Treated by Constructed Wetlands in Mediterranean Climate. (= Proceedings of 8th International Conference Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control, 274-282 ). London: International Water Association (IWA) and University of Dar es Salaam URL
Nutrient Cycling and Retention in Constructed Wetland Systems in Darzlubie near Puck Bay Southern Baltic Sea
The utilization of environmentally friendly and eco-safe wastewater treatment plan is nowadays widespread. This study aimed to assess the potentiality of hybrid constructed wetlands for treating of landfill leachate, river polluted water, domestic, industrial, hospital, runoff and agricultural wastewaters in lab-scale, pilot-scale and full-scale with various configurations.SAYADI, M.H. ; KARGAR, R. ; DOOSTI, M.R. ; SALEHI, H. (2012): Hybrid Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment: A Worldwide Review. In: Proceedings of the International Academy of Ecology and Environmental Sciences: Volume 2 , 204-222. URL [Accessed: 27.03.2015]
Evaluation of a Hybrid Constructed Wetland for Treating Domestic Sewage from Individual Housing Units Surrounding Agricultural Villages in South Korea
The treatment efficiency of 2- and 3-stage constructed wetlands (CWs) was evaluated for treating domestic sewage from houses surrounding agricultural villages.SEO, D.C. ; DE LAUNE, R.D. ; PARK, W.Y. ; LIM, J.S. ; SEO, J.Y. ; DO LEE, J. ; CHO, J.S. ; HEO, J.S. (2008): Evaluation of a Hybrid Constructed Wetland for Treating Domestic Sewage from Individual Housing Units Surrounding Agricultural Villages in South Korea. In: Journal of Environmental Monitoring: Volume 11 , 134-144. URL [Accessed: 27.03.2015]
This compendium gives a systematic overview on different sanitation systems and technologies and describes a wide range of available low-cost sanitation technologies.TILLEY, E. LUETHI, C. MOREL, A. ZURBRUEGG, C. SCHERTENLEIB, R. (2008): Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) URL [Accessed: 15.02.2010] PDF
This essay describes the horizontal sub-surface flow and the two basic designs of hybrid constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment.VYMAZAL, J. (2005): Horizontal Sub-Surface Flow and Hybrid Constructed Wetlands Systems for Wastewater Treatment. Durham: Duke University Wetland Center URL [Accessed: 10.06.2019]
Analysis of the Configuration and the Treatment Effect of Constructed Wetland Wastewater Treatment System for Different Wastewaters in South China
The main objectives of this study were to investigate pollutant removal efficiencies and mechanisms within field-scale hybrid natural purification systems. The studied hybrid constructed wetland systems include an oxidation pond, two serial surface flow wetlands with a cascade in between, and a subsurface flow wetland receiving secondary treated dormitory sewage.YEH, T.Y. ; WU, C.H. (2009): Pollutant Removal Within Hybrid Constructed Wetland Systems in Tropical Regions. In: Water Science and Technology: Volume 59 , 114-120. URL [Accessed: 27.03.2015]
This manual has been prepared as a general guide to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of constructed wetlands for the treatment of domestic wastewater as well as introduction to the design of constructed wetland for sludge drying.UN-HABITAT (2008): Constructed Wetlands Manual. Kathmandu: UN-HABITAT, Water for Asian Cities Program URL [Accessed: 15.02.2012]
Compendium of Natural Water Systems and Treatment Technologies to cope with Water Shortages in Urbanised Areas in India
The Compendium of NaWaTech Technologies presents appropriate water and wastewater technologies that could enable the sustainable water management in Indian cities. It is intended as a reference for water professionals in charge of planning, designing and implementing sustainable water systems in the Indian urban scenario, based on a decentralised approach.BARRETO DILLON, L. ; DOYLE, L. ; LANGERGRABER, G. ; SATISH, S. ; POPHALI, G. (2013): Compendium of Natural Water Systems and Treatment Technologies to cope with Water Shortages in Urbanised Areas in India. Berlin: EPUBLI GMBH URL [Accessed: 11.12.2015]