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-A promising method for waste

water Treatment

A.Adaikala Arul

IInd M.Sc. Eco-Biotechnology

What is Duckweed?
Duckweeds or Lemnaceae, are small
floating aquatic plants, which can be
found worldwide under varying
environmental conditions.
The plant morphology is simple and
consists of short root and a frond. The
plant measures only a few millimeters.
Common Duckweed has 1 to 3 fronds .
Growth rate:
Since stems and leaves are absent the
tissues are actively involved in
photosynthesis hence these duckweeds
are considered as the most vigorously
growing plant species on earth.
The average yield of biomass will be
15-30 tn Dm/ha/yr.
Duckweeds grow 20 times faster than a
corn and is able to cover 1 acre in just 45
days .
Protein content of 14-26% was observed
in natural water bodies, whereas 29-41%
of protein was observed in waste
stabilization ponds.
As it consists of high amount of protein
it is used as an animal feed in some
countries and some species of
duckweeds are used as feed for humans
in Burma, Laos and thailand.
BOD Removal
 Alaerts et al. (1996) reported BOD removal
efficiencies of 95-99% in a 0.7 ha sewage
lagoon in a time span of 20 days.
 DeBusk and Reddy (1987) observed BOD
removal rates as high as 300-400 kg/ha/day.
As oxygen in prevented from entering the
water, aerobic pathogens are reduced
which ultimately leads to BOD
TSS Removal

Algae results in an increase of

Total Suspended Solids (TSS) to
over 200 mg/l, Since algal growth
is greatly suppressed in Duckweed
ponds the amount of TSS would
also be greatly reduced – Taylor et
Removal of Heavy metals
Heavy metal removal by duckweed is by
plant uptake, chemical precipitation and
Landholt and Kandeler(1987) suggested
that duckweed could effectively be used
to remove metals from waste water.
Gellini and Piccardi(1981) reported that
Lemna causes a 75% reduction in
Copper content of water containing 5
mg/l within 48 hrs.
Xenobiotics removal

The removal of various xenobiotics

compounds such as phenol,
naphthalene and
chlorodibromomethane in waste water
along with microbial biota results in
removal of xenobiotics by
accelerating efficient biodegradation.
-Federle and Schwab(1989)
Pathogen Removal
Islam et al.(1996)observed that
Faecal coliform level was reduced
from 4.5X10 per 100ml in the
influent to 100/100ml in the effluent.
The reason for the reduction of the
fecal coliform was unknown but the
relation of duckweed in pathogen
removal is confirmed and extensive
studies is underway to find out the
connection of duckweeds.
(+)ve Impacts:
They grow rapidly and shows high
nutrient uptake rate when exposed to
They can tolerate high concentrations of
detergents present in domestic sewage.
They are capable of absorbing and
accumulating a wide variety of
substances including heavy metals.
Because of high protein content and low
fibre it is highly nutritious hence given to
animals as feed
 A complete duckweed cover may effectively
prevent the development of algal bloom in

 Presence of duckweed cover has decreased the

development of mosquitoes.

 In semi arid regions it is believed that there is

less evaporation of water when compared to
ponds without duckweed cover.

 Duckweeds does not require any fertilizers for

their growth and hence they can be grown in
water bodies without fertilizers.
(-)ve Impacts:
Even though there are many (+)ve
impacts about duckweeds It also
have some (-)ve impacts like,
 As these duckweeds cover the entire water
surface there are possibilities of unavailability of
oxygen and sunlight for fishes, phytoplankton's,
 If these duckweeds are allowed to absorb heavy
metals then they cannot be used as animal feed.
 It is a time consuming process, hence cannot be
incorporated in urban areas.
 As it prevents the entry of oxygen into water
there is possibilities of suppression of the growth
of aerobic bacteria.
Harvesting of Duckweeds:
Harvesting of duckweeds is much
simpler when compared to other
macrophytes like water Hyacinth
(Tamil: Agaya Thamarai), etc., as
there is no extensive rooting
system below the water.
If duckweeds are cleaned
completely it may result in algal
These plants produce biomass faster
than any other flowering plant, serve as
high-protein feed for domestic animals
and show clear potential as an
alternative for biofuel production
"We can kill two birds -- with one
stone, (biofuel production and
wastewater treatment) (i.e.) using
duckweed," -- Dr. Cheng, (North Carolina State University)
Setup in Rural Areas:
Rural Community

Animal Biogas Plant


Duckweed Crops

Fish pond Fish

Future prospects:
Due to the high starch content of
duckweeds they can be used to produce
ethanol which can be used as biofuel,
thus paving way to reduce global
Proteins can be extracted and supplied for
protein deficient people.
Duckweeds can be genetically modified so
that heavy metals and pesticides are
absorbed and degraded within the system.
Should be checked for any medicinal



 Environmental Biotechnology and Cleaner

Bioprocesses - E.J.Olguin
Gloria Sanchez
Elizabeth Hernandez