159 Ornamental Treatment-production Wetlands for Water Quality Improvement

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  • 1 Department of Plant Sciences, Univ. of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

Degraded water quality is a growing concern across the northeast and in many cases may be linked back to agricultural operations as nonpoint sources of nitrate and phosphorous pollution. Constructed wetlands have emerged as effective, low-cost methods of water treatment that have the potential to reduce agricultural nonpoint source pollution and contribute to agricultural sustainability. However, the costs of implementing treatment wetlands as a BMP are high, with little opportunity for cost recovery. We have initiated, at a wholesale plant nursery in Rhode Island, an economical solution to treating nursery runoff that incorporates into a treatment wetland the wholesale production of native and ornamental wetland plants. Our goal is to demonstrate how nursery growers may produce a high-demand crop while addressing nonpoint source pollution on their land. Over the next few years, we will evaluate the economic impact of converting nursery production space into treatment wetland production space. We also will research the feasibility of enclosing treatment wetlands in passively heated polyhouses to facilitate the year around treatment of agricultural runoff. Information gathered from both the on-farm demonstration and research sites will be extended to farmers and other agricultural businesses or professionals through outreach programming. The theory, objectives, and construction of the demonstration treatment-production wetland will be presented.

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