The Solar Aquatics System

Wastewater from the buildings are collected and flow by gravity to the extent possible to a septic tank to provide preliminary treatment, then to a flow equalization tank which transfers water to greenhouse enclosed treatment system. This system will consist of staged ecologies comprising a combination of subsurface flow constructed wetlands with a series of aquatic cells - aerated tanks filled with lush growth of carefully selected plant species. Treated effluent is then filtered before being disinfected (preferably with UV light and/or Ozone)

  • the system replicates, under controlled conditions, the natural purifying process of freshwater streams, meadows, and wetlands
  • the system recovers nutrients through the treatment of waste and wastewater
  • sewage collected from an area flows through a series of tanks, engineered streams, and constructed marshes where contaminants are metabolized or bound up by algae, plants, bacteria, and aquatic animals that are grown in greenhouses
  • sewage is not treated as waste but considered as food for the biological community in the greenhouses
  • treatment typically takes two to four days

Solar Aquatics avoids conventional treatment stages of chemical and mechanical processes. A prominent advantage of this system is that it takes care of the sludge drained from septic tanks. This waste is very difficult to process by conventional systems, which can involve extensive mechanical and chemical processes and odour. The water that comes out at the end of treatment in the solar aquatics system typically meets drinking water standards. 

Examples of Systems in North America

University of British Columbiathis Solar Aquatic System was designed and researched through academic involvement of the Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability. This facility reclaims all water within the building and uses the solar aquatic wastewater system as a teaching lab for sustainability with the treated water also servicing toilets and irrigation.

Christina Lake,British Columbia - This Solar Aquatics System was built on behalf of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary to treat the wastewater from the adjoining Christina Living Arts Centre. Funding for this development came through the BC infrastructure grant program - Towns for Tomorrow Program

Errington, British Columbia - Solar Aquatics was recommended as a community level option for municipalities in 2001 in the FCM Guide to Green Infrastructure for Canadian Municipalities. The case study used in the Guide is a 46 unit mobile home community in Errington, BC that treats combination storm and sewer and disposes through groundwater discharge (p. 25). Resource recovery products from this system include: ornamental plants, compost fertilizer, garden bedding plants, ornamental fish and snails, and hydroponic herbs and flowers.

Town of Cynthia, Brazeau County, Alberta - Brazeau County applied for funding and received support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to conduct a feasibility study for onsite wastewater treatment using solar aquatics in partnership with Brazeau County in 2004/2005. This project is now up and running and is intended to be a model for natural wastewater treatment infrastructure in cold climates and is of particular interest to those communities with aging infrastructure.

Bear River, Nova Scotia - Solar aquatics emerged as a viable solution in Canada with the leadership of Annapolis County, the province of Nova Scotia, and the Government of Canada when it was established in 1995. The 2400 ft2 Bear River Solar Aquatic Wastewater Treatment facility won three national sustainable community awards and demonstrated the opportunity to treat over 15,000 gallons of wastewater per day through natural biological processes and create water that exceeded wastewater treatment regulation for reintroduction to the environment.

Ontario Science Center - The Ontario Science Center has 10% of wastewater flowing through a 130m2 greenhouse with a Solar Aquatics System for treatment. The process makes use of aquatic and non-aquatic plants, bacteria, zooplankton, algae, fish, mollusks, snails, and clams, as well as filtering beds of sand and sphagnum. The water then flows into an adjoining aquarium.


[i] UBC CIRS Solar Aquatic Wastewater System

[ii] Christina Lake Wastewater Program (article)

[iii] The British Columbia Towns for Tomorrow Program