Subscribe Now Subscribe Today
Research Article

Comparing the Efficiency of Cyperus alternifolius and Phragmites australis in Municipal Wastewater Treatment by Subsurface Constructed Wetland

Davod Hossein Shahi, Hadi Eslami, Mohamad Hasan Ehrampoosh, Asghar Ebrahimi, Mohamad Taghy Ghaneian, Shirin Ayatollah and Mohamad Reza Mozayan
Facebook Twitter Digg Reddit Linkedin StumbleUpon E-mail

Nowadays, application of natural wastewater treatment systems such as wetland not only reduces economic costs and energy consumption, but also decreases environmental pollution. This study aimed to compare efficiency of Cyperus alternifolius and Phragmites australis in Municipal wastewater treatment by Subsurface Constructed Wetland Method. This is an applied-interventionnal study in which three reactors (control pilot, Cyperus alternifolius (umbrella palm) plant pilot and Phragmites australis (reed) plant pilot were designed by subsurface constructed wetland method. Then 90 samples were taken from input and output of reactors with four-day retention time. These samples were tested and finally the data were analyzed by Paired Sample Test statistical analysis. The results showed that removal efficiency of the parameters such as COD, BOD5 , TSS , NO3-N, NH3-N, PO4-P, total coliform and fecal coliform was 74, 73, 84, 40, 36, 70, 33 and 38% in Cyperus alternifolius plant wetland, 44, 34, 77, 15, 0.3, 1, 17 and 26% in control wetland and 59, 54, 73, 6, 3, 10, 93 and 50 in Phragmites australis plant wetland, respectively. This reduction rate in all parameters- except fecal coliform- was statistically significant (p = 0.05). The results of this study showed that Cyperus alternifolius plant had higher efficiency in the removal of chemical parameters, whereas Phragmites australis plant had appropriate efficiency in the removal of microbiological parameters. Therefore, it can be concluded that application of these two plants can be effective in wastewater treatment.

Related Articles in ASCI
Similar Articles in this Journal
Search in Google Scholar
View Citation
Report Citation

  How to cite this article:

Davod Hossein Shahi, Hadi Eslami, Mohamad Hasan Ehrampoosh, Asghar Ebrahimi, Mohamad Taghy Ghaneian, Shirin Ayatollah and Mohamad Reza Mozayan, 2013. Comparing the Efficiency of Cyperus alternifolius and Phragmites australis in Municipal Wastewater Treatment by Subsurface Constructed Wetland. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 16: 379-384.

DOI: 10.3923/pjbs.2013.379.384

Received: December 03, 2012; Accepted: February 14, 2013; Published: March 25, 2013


Increasing world population has led to the emergence of many problems for human being. One of these problems is environmental pollution, especially pollution of water resources by wastewater. This not only causes environmental hazards, but also threatens human health (Vega et al., 2003). Municipal or domestic wastewater is one of the major sources of environmental pollution that imposes a heavy cost on economy of the countries (Tchobanoglous et al., 2003). Today, there is a wide range of wastewater treatment systems; however, most of these systems have major problems, including high manufacturing costs, high energy consumption and complex operation which need sludge treatment and disposal. In most countries, high technology systems with high costs are used for wastewater treatment the implementation of which requires large amount of money and investment. On the other hand, application of natural low-tech wastewater treatment systems such as Constructed Wetland (CW) not only reduces economic costs and energy consumption but also decreases environmental pollution(El-Khateeb et al., 2009; Ye and Li, 2009). Natural wastewater treatment systems use physical, chemical and biological processes which are caused by interactions of water, soil, plants and microorganisms in nature (Maine et al., 2007; Cheng et al., 2009). Constructed Wetlands are considered as cost effective as well as wise-economic method in wastewater treatment due to their simple and inexpensive operation and maintenance. Thus, they can be used in developing countries which are faced with water pollution problem that is caused by wastewater (Mantovi et al., 2003; O’Neill et al., 2011). The Constructed Wetlands can be used to attain these objectives: domestic wastewater treatment and agricultural runoff, industrial wastewater treatment, landfill leachate treatment, flood treatment and urban runoff, post treatment of wastewater, restoration of autotrophic lakes and treatment of water polluted by nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate (Moore et al., 2000; Kivaisi, 2001; Hadad et al., 2006; Vymazal, 2007, 2010; Chung et al., 2008). Constructed Wetlands are used to treat variety of pollutants available in wastewater including organic materials, detergents, nitrogen and phosphorus compounds, heavy metals, suspended solids and trace elements in wastewater such as copper, zinc, aluminum, etc. (Kadlec, 1999; Chung et al., 2008; Kropfelova et al., 2009). Constructed Wetlands can also be used as a final treatment process after biological treatment processes, such as stabilization ponds (Belmont et al., 2004). In general, there are two types of Constructed Wetlands: Free Water Surface wetlands (FWS) and Sub-Surface Flow wetlands (SSF). Wastewater flow can be in upward vertical mode or horizontal mode in subsurface wetlands. Subsurface wetlands’ bed is filled with gravel, sand and proper grading soil. This bed provides an appropriate platform for growth of bacteria. Moreover it leads to high settlement of pollutants (Thurston et al., 2001; Lee et al., 2009). The most important part of wastewater treatment mechanism in wetlands is presence and activities of aquatic plants and microorganisms as well as transportation of oxygen from the air to plant’s roots (Armstrong et al., 2000; Nwuche and Ugoji, 2008; Nwuche and Ugoji, 2010; Di Luca et al., 2011). Studies show that fenny aquatic plants directly and indirectly play an important role in wastewater treatment. These plants transport oxygen to roots, absorb nutrients and directly decompose pollutants (Stottmeister et al., 2003; Cheng et al., 2011). Reed plant or Phragmites australis is one of the most common fenny aquatic plants used in Constructed Wetlands, so that in most of studies wetlands are simply known with this plant. Other fenny aquatic plant used in wetlands is umbrella palm or Cyperus alternifolius. This plant has long, thin and green leaves which grows up to one meter in good condition. It also has strong roots and grows fast. This plant can be used for wastewater treatment in wetland method (Liao et al., 2003).

The necessity of this research is evident for the following reasons: umbrella palm as a fenny aquatic plant might be used for wastewater treatment in wetland method; data in this regard are not enough; necessity of applying treatment using natural methods with the lowest cost possible. So this research was necessary to obtain data regarding wastewater treatment by wetland. On the other hand, this study aimed to identify removal efficiency of chemical and microbial agents by umbrella palm; then compared it with reed’s one in removal of these pollutants in Yazd, Iran.


This is an applied-interventional study in which the efficiency of two plants including Cyperus alternifolius and Phragmites australis was studied in sub-surface constructed wetland method to remove following parameters: BOD5, COD, TSS, NO3-N, NH3-N, PO4-N, Total Coliform (TC) and Fecal Coliform(FC). It should be noted that control parameters including pH and temperature were measured too. At first, three reactors were built as pilot by method of Constructed Wetland with sub-surface flow and four retention days. Pilots’ dimensions were as the following: 2 m length, 1.5 m width and 60 cm depth. In the two reactors, 50 seedlings of Cyperus alternifolius and Phragmites australis which were grown up to 15 days were planted and one pilot was considered as a control with no plant grown in. Soil gradation of all three reactors’ bed was sand in which three different diameters of this soil was used so that sands with coarse size (10-25 mm) were located near reactor’s outlet valve at the bottom, sands with medium size (8-14 mm) and small size (1-4 mm) were located in the middle and on top of the reactor respectively. Some clay was also added to the reactors in order to create an appropriate environment for growth of plants’ roots. The wastewater which was used in this research was effluent of septic tank (as pretreatment). Input flow of each one of these wetlands was set to 20 L min-1. Sampling was done 20 days after beginning of wetland operation with four retention days in summer season. Ninety samples were collected in two months period, i.e. in each step of sampling, 6 samples from input and output were collected using special containers. Samples were kept in ice in order to avoid their adverse reactions; then they were immediately transferred to the laboratory and tested according to standardized methods. After various tests, obtained results were analyzed by SPSS software and Paired Sample Test statistical analysis.


Average concentration of influent and effluent parameters including BOD5, COD, TSS, NO3-N, NH3-N, PO4-N, TC and FC in Constructed Wetland is shown in Table 1. The data indicated the average concentrations of BOD5, COD and TSS in the influent of wetlands to be 197, 413 and 111 mg L-1, respectively. There was the lowest amount of these parameters in the effluent of Cyperus alternifolius wetland, that is, regarding BOD5, COD and TSS, they were 53, 104 and 17 mg L-1, respectively (Table 1). Also the highest removal efficiency for BOD5, COD and TSS turned out to be 73, 74 and 84% , respectively (Fig. 1).

Table 1: Average concentration of influent and effluent parameters in constructed Wetlands

Fig. 1: Removal Efficiency (%) of BOD5, COD and TSS in constructed Wetlands

Average concentration of NO3-N, NH3-N and PO4-N in the influent of wetlands was shown to be 9.1, 59.5 and 7.4 mg L-1 , respectively. There was the lowest amount of these parameters in the effluent of Cyperus alternifolius wetland so that for NO3-N, NH3-N and PO4-N they were 5.7, 37.6 and 4.9 mg L-1, respectively (Table 1). Thus the highest removal efficiency in terms of NO3-N, NH3-N and PO4-N reached 40, 36 and 33%, respectively (Fig. 2). Average concentration of TC and FC in the influent of wetlands stood at 2.8x106 and 2.6x105 MPN 100 mL-1 , respectively. There was the lowest amount of these parameters in the effluent of Phragmites australis wetland, that is, TC and FC turned out to be 1.8x105 and 1.3x105 MPN 100 mL-1, respectively (Table 1). Therefore the highest removal efficiency in terms of TC and FC reached 93 and 50% (Fig. 3), respectively. The data represented that average of temperature and pH in the influent and effluent of all three CW was almost the same and was between 30-30.2 c and 7.4-7.7, respectively (Table 1).

Statistical analysis: demonstrated that reduction rate of the parameters including BOD5, COD, TSS, NO3-N, NH3-N,PO4-N and TC in all three CW was significant (p = 0.05). The reduction rate of FC, however, was not significant (p = 0.05).

Fig. 2: Removal efficiency of NO3-N, NH3-N, PO4-P in constructed Wetlands

Fig. 3: Removal efficiency of TC and FC in constructed Wetlands


Results of this study indicated that wetland with Cyperus alternifolius plant had higher efficiency compared to Phragmites australis in removal of chemical parameters including NH3-N ,NO3-N ,TSS, COD ,BOD5, PO4-P. Moreover, results of this study identified that Phragmites australis wetland had higher efficiency compared to wetland of Cyperus alternifolius in the removal of microbial parameters including total coliform and fecal coliform. Knight et al. (2000) performed a study on animal wastewater treatment using Constructed Wetlands. Results of this study showed that removal rate of parameters including BOD5, SS, NH4-N, TN and TP were 65, 53, 48, 42 and 42%, respectively (Knight et al., 2000). Liao et al. (2003) did another research on capability of Cyperus alternifolius and vetiver to treat pig field wastewater in China. Results of this study demonstrated that these two plant species removed COD, BOD5, TP and NH3-N parameters up to 64, 68, 18 and 20%, respectively in four retention days (Liao et al., 2003). Results of another research which was carried out by Song et al. (2006) indicated that using Constructed Wetland for wastewater removal could remove COD, BOD5 and TSS up to 62.2%, 70.4%9 and 71.8% respectively (Song et al., 2006). Juang et al. (2008) in a research on pollutants treated by Constructed Wetland identified the average of BOD5, SS and NH3 to be 71.8, 36.6 and 41.7%, respectively. In this constructed wetland, a variety of plants such as Cyperus alternifolius were used. Retention time was specified 3-4 days (Juang et al., 2008). El-Khateeb et al. (2009) conducted a study in which Constructed Wetland with sub-surface flow was used for final wastewater treatment after one anaerobic process; the removal rate of BOD5, COD and TSS with Constructed Wetland turned out to be 53, 66.6 and 68.2% , respectively (El-Khateeb et al., 2009). Comparison of the above-mentioned results with results of this study demonstrated that removal efficiency of chemical parameters was higher in this study. This increase may be the result of using Cyperus alternifolius plant. Thus, application of Cyperus alternifolius plant instead of Phragmites australis plant in wetland may be an appropriate alternative. Kadlec et al. (2010) performed a study on Constructed Wetlands with Phragmites australis plant in Columbia. Results of this study showed that the wetlands under study removed 98% of fecal coliforms and 95% of E. coli. Moreover, these wetlands had an effective role in removal of chemical agents (Kadlec et al., 2010). Results obtained from this study are parallel to above-mentioned study. This indicates that Phragmites australis wetland has higher efficiency in removal of microbial parameters compared to Cyperus alternifolius. Yang et al. (2006) conducted a research on a Constructed Wetland in northern China. Results specified that wetland can remove efficiently heavy metals from industrial wastewater in long-term application. Furthermore, it has removed more than 98% of suspended solids (Yang et al., 2006). Vymazal (2009) performed a study showing that application of Constructed Wetlands was effective in industrial wastewater treatment as well as waste leachate treatment (Vymazal, 2009). In view of similar studies and the results obtained from this study in representing high efficiency of Cyperus alternifolius wetland in removal of chemical parameters, it is clear that Constructed Wetland with Cyperus alternifolius plant can be used not only for Municipal wastewater treatment, but also for industrial wastewater treatment and waste leachate treatment. The results, moreover, indicated that Cyperus alternifolius has appropriate efficiency for removal of nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus. Thus, this plant can be used for treatment of water and wastewater polluted by nutrient such as nitrate and phosphate (Stearman et al., 2012).


In general, this research detected that Cyperus alternifolius plant has acceptable efficiency for treatment of Municipal wastewater. Moreover, using a combination of Phragmites australis and Cyperus alternifolius wetland may lead to high efficiency of removal of chemical and microbial parameters. Of course, it is essential to perform additional studies on efficiency of these two plants in removal of nutrients, heavy metals, parasites’ semen and intestinal viruses. Furthermore, capability of this plant in various climate conditions as well as industrial wastewater treatment with high organic loading should be investigated too.

1:  Armstrong, W., D. Cousins, J. Armstrong, D.W. Turner and P.M. Beckett, 2000. Oxygen distribution in wetland plant roots and permeability barriers to gas-exchange with the rhizosphere: A microelectrode and modelling study with Phragmites australis. Ann. Bot., 86: 687-703.
CrossRef  |  

2:  Belmont, M.A., E. Cantellano, S. Thompson, M. Williamson, A. Sanchez and C.D. Metcalfe, 2004. Treatment of domestic wastewater in a pilot-scale natural treatment system in central Mexico. Ecol. Eng., 23: 299-311.
CrossRef  |  

3:  Cheng, B., C.W. Hu and Y.J. Zhao, 2011. Effects of plants development and pollutant loading on performance of vertical subsurface flow constructed wetlands. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol., 8: 177-186.
Direct Link  |  

4:  Cheng, X.Y., M.Q. Liang, W.Y. Chen, X.C. Liu and Z.H. Chen, 2009. Growth and contaminant removal effect of several plants in constructed wetlands. J. Integr. Plant Biol., 51: 325-335.
CrossRef  |  

5:  Chung, A.K.C., Y. Wu, N.F.Y. Tam and M.H. Wong, 2008. Nitrogen and phosphate mass balance in a sub-surface flow constructed wetland for treating municipal wastewater. Ecol. Eng., 32: 81-89.
CrossRef  |  

6:  Di Luca, G.A., M.A. Maine, M.M. Mufarrege, H.R. Hadad, G.C. Sanchez and C.A. Bonetto, 2011. Metal retention and distribution in the sediment of a constructed wetland for industrial wastewater treatment. Ecol. Eng., 37: 1267-1275.
CrossRef  |  

7:  El-Khateeb, M.A., A.Z. Al-Herrawy, M.M. Kamel and F.A. El-Gohary, 2009. Use of wetlands as post-treatment of anaerobically treated effluent. Desalination, 245: 50-59.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

8:  Hadad, H.R., M.A. Maine and C.A. Bonetto, 2006. Macrophyte growth in a pilot-scale constructed wetland for industrial wastewater treatment. Chemosphere, 63: 1744-1753.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

9:  Juang, D.F., W.P. Tsai, W.K. Liu and J.H. Lin, 2008. Treatment of polluted river water by a gravel contact oxidation system constructed under riverbed. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol., 5: 305-314.
Direct Link  |  

10:  Kadlec, R.H., 1999. Chemical, physical and biological cycles in treatment wetlands. Water Sci. Technol., 40: 37-44.
CrossRef  |  

11:  Kadlec, R.H., C. Cuvellier and T. Stober, 2010. Performance of the Columbia, Missouri, treatment wetland. Ecol. Eng., 36: 672-684.
CrossRef  |  

12:  Kivaisi, A.K., 2001. The potential for constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment and reuse in developing countries: A review. Ecol. Eng., 16: 545-560.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

13:  Knight, R.L., V.W.E. Payne Jr., R.E. Borer, R.A. Clarke Jr. and J.H. Pries, 2000. Constructed wetlands for livestock wastewater management. Ecol. Eng., 15: 41-55.
CrossRef  |  

14:  Kropfelova, L., J. Vymazal, J. Svehla and J. Stichova, 2009. Removal of trace elements in three horizontal sub-surface flow constructed wetlands in the Czech Republic. Environ. Pollut., 157: 1186-1194.
CrossRef  |  

15:  Lee, C.G., T.D. Fletcher and G. Sun, 2009. Nitrogen removal in constructed wetland systems. Eng. Life Sci., 9: 11-22.
CrossRef  |  

16:  Liao, X., S. Luo, X. Wu and Z. Wang, 2003. Studies on the abilities of vetiveria zizanioides and cyperus alternifolius for pig farm wastewater treatment. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Vetiver and Exhibition, October 6-9, 2003, China Agriculture Press, Guangzhou, China. -.

17:  Maine, M., N. Sune, H. Hadad, G. Sanchez and C. Bonetto, 2007. Removal efficiency of a constructed wetland for wastewater treatment according to vegetation dominance. Chemosphere, 68: 1105-1113.
CrossRef  |  

18:  Mantovi, P., M. Marmiroli, E. Maestri, S. Tagliavini, S. Piccinini and N. Marmiroli, 2003. Application of a horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland on treatment of dairy parlor wastewater. Bioresour. Technol., 88: 85-94.
CrossRef  |  

19:  Moore, M.T., J.H. Rodgers Jr., C.M. Cooper and S. Smith, 2000. Constructed wetlands for mitigation of atrazine-associated agricultural runoff. Environ. Pollut., 110: 393-399.
CrossRef  |  

20:  Nwuche, C.O. and E.O. Ugoji, 2008. Effects of heavy metal pollution on the soil microbial activity. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Tech , 5: 409-414.
Direct Link  |  

21:  Nwuche, C.O. and E.O. Ugoji, 2010. Effect of co-existing plant specie on soil microbial activity under heavy metal stress. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol., 7: 697-704.
Direct Link  |  

22:  O'Neill, A., R.H. Foy and D.H. Phillips, 2011. Phosphorus retention in a constructed wetland system used to treat dairy wastewater. Bioresour. Technol., 102: 5024-5031.
CrossRef  |  

23:  Song, Z., Z. Zheng, J. Li, X. Sun, X. Han, W. Wang and M. Xu, 2006. Seasonal and annual performance of a full-scale constructed wetland system for sewage treatment in China. Ecol. Eng., 26: 272-282.
CrossRef  |  

24:  Stearman, G.K., D.B. George and L.D. Hutchings, 2012. Removal of nitrogen, phosphorus and prodiamine from a container nursery by a subsurface flow constructed wetland. J. Bioremed. Biodegrad.,

25:  Stottmeister, U., A. Wieβner, P. Kuschk, U. Kappelmeyer and M. Kastner et al., 2003. Effects of plants and microorganisms in constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment. Biotechnol. Adv., 22: 93-117.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

26:  Tchobanoglous, G., F.L. Burton and H.D. Stensel, 2003. Wastewater Engineering Treatment and Reuse. 4th Edn., Metcalf and Eddy Inc. McGraw-Hill Co., USA.

27:  Thurston, J.A., K.E. Foster, M.M. Karpiscak and C.P. Gerba, 2001. Fate of indicator microorganisms, Giardia and Cryptosporidium in subsurface flow constructed wetlands. Water Res., 35: 1547-1551.
Direct Link  |  

28:  Vega, E., B. Lesikar and S.D. Pillai, 2003. Transport and survival of bacterial and viral tracers through submerged-flow constructed wetland and sand-filter system. Bioresour. Technol., 89: 49-56.
CrossRef  |  

29:  Vymazal, J., 2007. Removal of nutrients in various types of constructed wetlands. Sci Total Environ., 380: 48-65.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

30:  Vymazal, J., 2009. The use constructed wetlands with horizontal sub-surface flow for various types of wastewater. Ecol. Eng., 35: 1-17.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

31:  Vymazal, J., 2010. Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment. Water, 2: 530-549.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

32:  Yang, B., C.Y. Lan, C.S. Yang, W.B. Liao, H. Chang and W.S. Shu, 2006. Long-term efficiency and stability of wetlands for treating wastewater of a lead/zinc mine and the concurrent ecosystem development. Environ. Pollut., 143: 499-512.
CrossRef  |  

33:  Ye, F. and Y. Li, 2009. Enhancement of nitrogen removal in towery hybrid constructed wetland to treat domestic wastewater for small rural communities. Ecol. Eng., 35: 1043-1050.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

©  2021 Science Alert. All Rights Reserved