Three-Year Project is Focus During American Wetlands Month

May is American Wetlands Month. Currently, the Orange County Water District’s Prado Wetlands—the largest constructed wetlands on the West Coast— are part of a three-year project led by the Colorado School of Mines (Professor Josh Sharp) with co-investigators from the U.S. Geological Service (USGS). The project will explore natural nitrogen treatment of vegetation-free, shallow wetland ponds. Its goal is to increase the reliability and resiliency of an engineered wetland design, remove nutrients that hinder water capture and reuse, and do so with less energy and infrastructure demand than more traditional engineered water treatment systems.

The project is funded by the USGS and National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR), with co-funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) research center, and matching cost-share funds from the Orange County Water District (OCWD).

Project findings could provide a broad range of innovative approaches to wetland-based water treatment and infrastructure that enable informed design, management and maintenance considerations as society addresses the replacement of aging water treatment infrastructure.

OCWD constructed several wetland ponds (cells) according to the university design, and the team is also monitoring three approximately 98 ft. by 853 ft. cells. OCWD provides regular maintenance and operation of the wetland cells as part of its larger wetland field maintenance operations in the Prado area and will aid in sampling when appropriate.

Researchers include those from the Colorado School of Mines, USGS, University of California-Berkeley, and OCWD.