The best prospects for successful wetland treatment should be in the warmer regions of the world, but studies in North America and Scandinavia show that wetland treatment may be feasible also in cooler regions. A review shows that the number of wetlands of different types (free water surface, FWS; horizontal and vertical subsurface flow, SSF), treating different kinds of wastewater, is steadily increasing in most parts of the cold temperate regions of the world. The major wetland engineering concerns in cold climates, which are discussed in this paper, are related to: (1) ice formation, and its implications for hydraulic performance; (2) hydrology and hydraulic issues besides ice formation; and (3) the thermal consequences for biologically or microbiologically mediated treatment processes. Energy- and water-balance calculations, as well as thermal modeling, are useful tools for successful design and operation of treatment wetlands, but the shortage of data makes it necessary to adopt a conservative approach. The treatment processes often appear less temperature sensitive in full-scale wetlands as compared to laboratory incubations. Several possible explanations are discussed in the paper: (1) sedimentation playing a significant role, (2) overdimensioning in relation to some constituents, (3) seasonal adsorption (cation exchange) of ammonium, and (4) temperature adaptation of the microbial community. Experience shows that cold climate wetlands can meet effluent criteria for the most important treatment parameters. To gain wide acceptance, however, we need to become more specific about design and construction, and also about operation, maintenance and cost-effectiveness. These goals require detailed knowledge about processes in full-scale wetlands, including long-term changes and response to maintenance.

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