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American Society of Landscape Architects


January 2004 Issue

Growing Away Wastewater
Constructed ecosystems that clean wastewater are a budding market for landscape architects.
By Carol Steinfeld and David Del Porto

When constructed wetland specialist Heather Shepherd of Sebastopol, California, was hired to design a showcase wastewater-treatment wetland for a winery, she found herself longing for a landscape design partner who could integrate the system into the surrounding landscape as well as propose variations beyond the rectangles and ovals she typically designs. She says, "It would have been great to work with a landscape architect"—but she didn't know any who were competent to collaborate on these systems.

Photo by Carol Steinfeld

In the future, however, Shepherd says she expects that engineers will be able to find landscape architects they can team up with to design double-duty landscapes that "grow clean water"—especially as wastewater regulations tighten and water costs rise. In the conceivable future, the gardens that landscape architects design will also filter, clean, and stabilize wastewater from buildings and their sites. The client will receive one bill for site and wastewater treatment design—and enjoy lower costs for irrigating and fertilizing landscapes.

Landscape architects who learn the biology and hydrology of these systems—from constructed wetlands to planted rock filters—are poised to capitalize on this market by either designing the systems or partnering with wastewater engineering firms that do. Landscape architects have the mind-set and skills to design these systems, skills that engineers are only now learning. Essentially, the technology is all about how many "biofilm" areas are needed to reduce "wastewater constituent."

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