Volume 18, No.2, Summer 2000

Mimicking Mother Nature

From Bali to Las Vegas, a new method for treating wastewater is producing clean water as well as lush gardens. Designed by environmental engineers John and Nancy Todd, the Living Machine is a network of miniature environments that mimics natural biological processes to clean wastewater. While similar to the cleansing done by river and estuary ecosystems, the new technology works faster and more intensely for industrial applications.

The wastewater passes through a series of tanks stocked with microorganisms, plants, snails and fish that clean it without using any chemicals. As the water becomes cleaner, it flows from closed tanks to open ones that resemble marshes filled with wetland plants, snails, clams, and fish. These tanks are located in a greenhouse where sunlight powers the plants and the cleaning process continues.

At the end of the cycle, the water can be safely discharged or reused. The solid wastes are composted and used in gardens. The Living Machine is less expensive to install than a conventional wastewater treatment system and less costly to operate. It also has the advantage of looking like a lush garden and is completely free of foul odors.

Time Magazine

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