Living Machines

Waste treatment system that mimics the cleansing functions of natural wetlands in a smaller footprint.  Combines solid separation (e.g. septic tank or digester) with beautifully vegetated wetland filters.

Treatment Level:  Primary
Relative Cost:
Amount of Maintenance Interaction:  medium
Beneficial Byproduct:  some (water)
potential to treat further for potable water or combine with biogas digester


  • Can be very beautiful & integrated into lobbies, courtyards, greenhouses, etc.
  • Very high level of treatment.
  • Can harvest water for reuse (with extra treatment, can use as potable source).
  • Odor free.


  • Need specialized training for system design and maintenance.
  • May need to be located in a greenhouse in colder climates.
  • Not much history for single family, residential scale installation.
  • Needs pumps with consistent power source.

Operation & Maintenance

  • Preventative maintenance inspections for pump function, solid collection levels (refer to septic tank maintenance), plant health, etc.
  • Very minimal maintenance once the system is functioning properly.

Blackwater vs Graywater?

  • Can treat both in combination or either one separately.  If just graywater, then can skip the settling tank element.

Secondary Treatment Options

  • Liquid (effluent):  none needed unless potable water is desired.
  • Solids (sludge):  Drying bed, windrow, off-site disposal.

Additional Notes:

  • Can be incorporated into the landscape features and made to be aesthetically pleasing.
  • Can be used in combination with biogas production, compost filters and/or aquaculture.
  • Great application for hotel, office, small community/village or courtyard serving several families.

El Monte Sagrado Resort (