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Authors: Giraldi, D.* 
De' Michieli Vitturi, M.* 
Zaramella, M.* 
Marion, A.* 
Iannelli, R.* 
Title: Hydrodynamics of vertical subsurface flow constructed wetlands: Tracer tests with rhodamine WT and numerical modelling
Issue Date: 9-Feb-2009
Series/Report no.: 2/35(2009)
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2008.06.004
Keywords: Constructed wetlands
Vertical flow
Tracer tests
Rhodamine WT
Unsaturated flow
Subject Classification03. Hydrosphere::03.02. Hydrology::03.02.06. Water resources 
05. General::05.01. Computational geophysics::05.01.99. General or miscellaneous 
05. General::05.08. Risk::05.08.01. Environmental risk 
Abstract: Typical unsteady unsaturated conditions can profoundly affect the hydrodynamics of vertical subsurface flow constructed wetlands. In this study we analyzed the hydrodynamics of a 33 m2 vertical flow pilot plant, treating municipal secondary effluents. Three different saturation conditions were analyzed under several constant flux regimes: complete saturation, partial saturation with the free water table 20 cm over the bottom of the bed, and complete drainage. Tracer tests were performed in steady state conditions by dosing rhodamine WT as square input signals. Breakthrough curves were analyzed by means of both a classical residence time distribution analysis and an originally developed numerical plug-flow model with longitudinal dispersion adapted to the unsaturated conditions. We found that the degree of global mixing in the vertical flow constructed wetland increased as the water content increased; this effect was controlled by the hydraulic residence time of the system. Conversely, the degree of local mixing was inversely affected by water content; the dispersivity was 4.5, 10, and 14 cm for fully saturated, partially saturated and draining conditions, respectively. We explain the dependency of dispersivity on water content in physical terms; however, further studies are needed to mathematically include this relationship in numerical models that describe the behaviour of vertical flow constructed wetlands.
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