The UK Water Industry first became interested in Reed Bed Treatment Systems for sewage in 1985. Early problems were experienced with soil-based horizontal-flow systems of the Root Zone type. The problems were overcome by national co-ordination of a development programme and international co-operation by an EC Expert Contact Group. A number of different types of systems have now been developed and the systems are now being accepted. The paper reviews the development of these systems for secondary and tertiary treatment and nitrification and mentions development of systems for other forms of treatment. The design changes made to overcome the problems are described. These include the gradual move to the use of gravel-based systems because of the difficulty experienced with over-land flow in the soil systems. The sizing of the systems is described together with performance data for the original horizontal-flow and the more recently developed vertical-flow systems. Treatment at secondary and tertiary levels is illustrated and the potential for nitrification. Early problems with reed growth have been overcome by planting with port-grown seedlings.

After 10 years the process is generally accepted by the Water Industry as an appropriate treatment for villages and there are now between 200 and 300 systems in operation.