Title

Dealing with nitrogen in subtropical Australia: seven case studies in the diffusion of ecotechnological innovation

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Davison, L, Pont, D, Bolton, KG & Headley, TR 2006, 'Dealing with nitrogen in subtropical Australia: seven case studies in the diffusion of ecotechnological innovation', Ecological Engineering, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 213-223.

Ecological Engineering home page available at www.elsevier.com/locate/issn/09258574

Publisher's version of article available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2006.07.012

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

This paper describes seven case studies in which ecotechnological approaches are being used to reduce the discharge of nitrogen to the environment in three local government jurisdictions in the moist subtropical zone of eastern Australia. Both technical performance and factors relating to acceptance of the technologies are examined. Three of the technologies have survived early setbacks to achieve increasing acceptance. Composting toilets and reed beds (sub-surface flow wetlands) have achieved takeoff in the on-site wastewater context in the Lismore City Council area where the level of adoption (based on 2004-2005 figures) for both technologies was approximately 30% of newly approved systems. In both cases, the level of adoption has been favoured by local scientific studies which have confirmed claims regarding technical performance and by regulations which encourage the reduction of nitrogen discharge to the environment. Free water surface (FWS) wetlands are installed as polishing devices at three of the 10 sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Lismore and the adjoining Byron and Richmond River Shires. Early problems arising from inexperience at design, construction and management of these wetlands have been overcome as local familiarity has increased. This confidence has been a factor in the decision to support a major upgrade to the West Byron constructed wetland system and to install a further three wetlands locally. A further two technologies each have one full-scale system in operation. A 24 ha multipurpose wetland regeneration project for effluent polishing and transpiration, acid sulfate soil management, wetland regeneration, and carbon sequestration, recently installed at the end of the West Byron STP treatment train, is reducing total nitrogen concentrations from approximately 4-1 mg/L. A landfill leachate treatment system incorporating pond, macrophyte zones, horizontal flow gravel filter and single pass sand filter is reducing NH4-N and TKN concentrations by 95% and 84%, respectively. The final two technologies described are associated with the reuse and/or treatment of municipal wastewaters. The annual crops hemp and kenaf have both exhibited high N uptake rates in irrigated crop trials. However, their short growing season has resulted in rejection as production crops at one STP in the Byron Shire. The recent realization that the perennial pasture grass Setaria sphacelata can perform the role of wetland macrophyte has given rise to the concept of the "wet-and-dry-land" cell. Still at the pilot stage, this ecotechnology may have application in areas with distinct wet and dry seasons.