Richard Furthy and June Evans installed an ornamental water garden rather than a septic tank for their isolated home. Their idea spread and has now become so popular they are offering guided tours of their garden every Sunday. The design was environmentally sound, an organic solution to a difficult problem (their original septic tank had been playing up). But Furthy is not an eco-activist; he is a bathroom designer in Wiltshire. The story he has to tell is not how he discovered the “Environment,” but how he discovered the Ebb and Flow Water System (a specialist “pond and wetland system for water treatment”) – at Hampton Court Flower Show.
After massive problems with their septic tank, and estimates of thousands of pounds to repair it, they came across the solution.
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Now they use tried and trusted industrial methods of processing sewage and build it in as a feature of the garden. They now have a chain of ponds, wetland streams and mini-waterfalls across their lawn with beds of native reed, rush, sedge and iris, and a series of “flow form cascades” (stone steps down which water pours and is pushed back up by an electric pump).
So the fish-stocked waters of West Littleton are part of a process of bacterial decomposition that amounts to a private sewage farm.
How does it work? In brief, nature’s cleansing cycle relies on the combined use of aerobic bacteria, which breaks down organic matter, oxygenated water and the natural filtration and antiseptic properties of a variety of wetland plants. Reed beds are used extensively by Britain’s water companies to deal with the final “polishing” stage in sewage treatment.
Richard and June are among a growing number of domestic users whose garden-sized environmental systems are capable of taking on the entire process, from indoor loo to outdoor wildlife pond.