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A cost-effectiveness analysis of seminatural wetlands and activated sludge wastewater-treatment systems

Mannino, Ilda and Franco, Daniel and Piccioni, Enrico and Favero, Laura and Mattiuzzo, Erika and Zanetto, Gabriele (2006): A cost-effectiveness analysis of seminatural wetlands and activated sludge wastewater-treatment systems. Published in: Environmental Management , Vol. 1, No. 41 (2007): pp. 118-129.

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Abstract

A cost-effectiveness analysis was performed to evaluate the competitiveness of seminatural Free Water Surface wetland (FWS) compared to traditional wastewater- treatment plants. Six scenarios of the service costs of three FWS wetlands and three different wastewater-treatment plants based on active sludge processes were compared. The six scenarios were all equally effective in their wastewater-treatment capacity. The service costs were estimated using real accounting data from an experimental wetland and by means of a market survey. Some assumptions had to be made to perform the analysis. A reference wastewater situation was established to solve the problem of the different levels of dilution that characterize the inflow water of the different systems; the land purchase cost was excluded from the analysis, considering the use of public land as shared social services, and an equal life span for both seminatural and traditional wastewater-treatment plants was set. The results suggest that seminatural systems are competitive with traditional biotechnological systems, with an average service cost improvement of 2.1-fold to 8- fold, according to the specific solution and discount rate. The main improvement factor was the lower maintenance cost of the seminatural systems, due to the self-regulating, low artificial energy inputs and the absence of waste to be disposed. In this work, only the waste-treatment capacity of wetlands was considered as a parameter for the economic competitiveness analysis. Other goods/services and environmental benefits provided by FWS wetlands were not considered.

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