For twenty years, nature, gravity and award-winning science has cleaned polluted grey water from Charles Sturt University.
Decades ago Professor David Mitchell designed a wetland system to treat the campus' wastewater via a series of ‘treatment pods’, gravel and reed bed wetlands.
The wetlands were initially met with much scepticism and concern by council officers but went on to win state, national and international awards.
On Friday’s World Wetlands Day the university reflected on the long-standing benefits of Professor Mitchell’s fore-thought, and his ability to turn a ‘green field’ into a glorious wetland environment.
Professor Mitchell was an adjunct professor with the university’s Institute for Land, Water and Society for almost two decades, worked with CSIRO and was the inaugural director of the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre.
He left the university in 2014 after being diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease, but his legacy remains.
CSU Institute for Land, Water and Society director Professor Max Finlayson said the design continues to perform well for the university and was the result of great innovation at the time.
“Wetlands have been constructed across the world for more than 50 years to treat polluted water,” he said.
“The David Mitchell wetland system on our campus is a working demonstration of sustainable practice.
“The wetlands were constructed as part of the development of a new campus.”
Professor Finlayson said the wetland design had met and exceeded initial expectations.
“It provided a marvellous opportunity to design an environmentally efficient, on-site water management system from scratch,” he said.
“The number of thermo-tolerant coliform bacteria detected in treated grey water indicates the level of faecal contamination and whether this water can be re-used.
“To date, the treated water has passed every test, providing evidence that individual units of this nature are effective – they can treat grey water and meet initial expectations and specifications.”
Professor Finlayson said the wetlands were just one example of Professor Mitchell’s immense and long-lasting contribution to the management of Australia’s aquatic ecosystems.
He said they were also proof of the Professor’s continuing legacy at the university.
“His leadership has been widely recognised and his willingness to spend time advising and supporting others is an example to all,” he said.
“His contributions to the use of wetland plants to treat wastewater are just a part of his tremendous legacy.”