Deakin University and Wannon Water pilot project could help in algae battle

Deakin University aquatic chemistry lecturer Tim Tutt is conducting a trial of floating reed beds.

Deakin University aquatic chemistry lecturer Tim Tutt is conducting a trial of floating reed beds.

A new trial using floating reed beds as a water treatment tool could be the first step in helping solve the region’s blue-green algae woes.

The $20,000 pilot project will use man-made “floating wetlands” to reduce the amount of wastewater nutrients being discharged into inland waterways.

Deakin University aquatic chemistry lecturer Tim Tutt will conduct the trial at Heywood over the next 12 months.

Dr Tutt said while there was no “silver bullet” for blue-green algae, he hopes that floating reed beds could help in restoring proper nutrient balance in inland waterways and reduce algal blooms.

“Wetlands and reeds are like nature’s water treatment systems,” he said.

He said the floating reed bed was easy to assemble and potentially more financially viable way of reducing nutrient load in waterways.

“They’re very simple; a bit like the Ikea of floating wetlands,” Dr Tutt said. “They’re flat-packed and any community group could put them together.

“There are other products on the market dedicated to this idea but this low-tech method with off-the-shelf products could potentially significantly reduce costs.”

The project is being funded through a partnership between Deakin University and Wannon Water and the trial will take place at Heywood’s lagoon-based wastewater treatment plant.

Six 20,000 litre rainwater tanks will be used to scientifically assess the performance of the floating reed beds, three tanks will have the reed beds and three will be controls with no reeds.

Dr Tutt said if results were promising, there could be a larger-scale trial.

Wannon Water’s branch manager operations Wayne Murdoch said the corporation was excited about the trial and the alliance with Deakin University.

“This is a novel approach to a challenging issue around nutrient removal in wastewater effluent,” he said.

Dr Tutt said the trials would determine if the system improved water quality and met operational needs as an economical and sustainable treatment option.

“Additionally, there might be other applications down the track such as improving recreational fishing by providing habitats and restoring ecological diversity in waterways,” Dr Tutt said.