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A Deeper Look Into Phytodepuration

This summer Algae Bloom has been a buzz word on the news and all of our Facebook newsfeed. How can we fight the algae blooms and the dead zones in our water bodies?


The Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, Lake Superior, rivers, and ponds that surround us are all getting invaded with red tides, blue-green algae, and cyanobacteria. They are all harmful toxic algae blooms! Why are algae blooms all of a sudden everywhere? The answer is climate change and the increase of nutrient pollution.


Nitrogen and Phosphorus are apart of the natural ecosystem of our bodies of water, they provide habitat and a food supply for fish, shellfish and smaller organisms. However, there is extra sources of these nutrients from the chemicals applied in the agriculture industry, polluted rainwater runoff, fossil fuels, ineffective wastewater and sewage treatment, and even everyday household products such as soaps and detergents.

When there’s all of this extra Nitrogen and Phosphorus, it creates a breeding frenzy for the toxic Algae Bloom. Algae blooms forming faster than the ecosystem can handle will have dire consequences. We are currently witnessing some of the consequences and as we continue on these trends we will see more dead zones. Additionally, it will have repercussions affecting marine life and economic consequences for clean water and food supplies.


In the water purifying blog post, I define Phytodepuration as the intentional use of a plant to remove toxins from soils, sludges, sediments, surface water, and groundwater. This is a natural treatment technique that mimics natural purification processes in a controlled environment. These system use basins that with inert materials such as sand, aquatic plants and macrophytes. These plants are natural purification systems in cooperation with microorganisms.

These magical plants work purely from biology. Biological processes such as sedimentation, precipitation, absorption, assimilation from plants and microbial activity filter the unwanted nutrients and chemicals, allowing the growth of the plants.


I had the illustration recreated from the original infographic to represent the three systems of Phytodepuration. The first system is a sub-surface flow system (SSF). This method is the frequently used throughout Europe, and is the most common system used because of its high efficiency requiring less surface area while still providing a purified system.

Plant Water Purification


In the horizontal sub-surface flow system, the wastewater flows through the whole bottom of the basin through a pipe. The filtration and biological degradation process is carried out using anaerobic and aerobic microorganisms removing the organic matter. The nitrogen is removed by nitrification. Metals and the phosphorus are removed by being absorbed in the inert material surface.


IN this system the wastewater is fed from the top by a web of pipes that are spread along the basin. The wastewater flows downward resting at the bottom of the basin. The basin doesn’t continuously fill to the top. The two-part filling and emptying of the basin process allow a higher oxygen level than all of the other systems.


As water gets warmer, chemical pollution becomes more and more out of control and the algae blooms will grow more prevalent because of their preference for warmer water. As we continue in this downward spiral of global warming, freshwater will begin to gain salinity due to droughts and desertification. All these effects that are happening right now will become more deadly. When will there be enough deaths from algae blooms and dangerous chemical pollution for us to demand wide spread change! Wide spread change in water purification, industrialised farming and, the throwaway culture we are living in! Water purification using plants and not chemicals is a solution.

Let’s all stand for permaculture and learn how to make the earth greener.

This article was first published on the World Permaculture Association’s website.


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Giuseppe Tallarico

He is a versatile and results-oriented Agronomist specializing in Permaculture, Food Security and Environmental Management Systems. He is the founder and General Manager of the World Permaculture Association. He is a PRI of Australia accredited teacher. He is the Head of the Urban Permaculture Laboratory Educational Center. He manages the Regenerative Agriculture consulting company, Rigenera. He is the co-creator of Permamindfulness®. He is the Director assistant and the Quality Manager of Flora. Additionally he holds an MSc Degree with First Class Honors in Agriculture Sciences. He is dedicated to consulting large scale farms so they can convert to a more sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture to achieve a greener earth for all.

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