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Suitability of Gray Water for Hydroponic Crop Production Following Biological and Physical Chemical and Biological SubsystemsThe water present in waste streams from a human habitat must be recycled in Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS) to limit resupply needs and attain self-sufficiency. Plants play an important role in providing food, regenerating air, and producing purified water via transpiration. However, we have shown that the surfactants present in hygiene waste water have acute toxic effects on plant growth (Bubenheim et al. 1994; Greene et al., 1994). These phytotoxic affects can be mitigated by allowing the microbial population on the root surface to degrade the surfactant, however, a significant suppression (several days) in crop performance is experienced prior to reaching sub-toxic surfactant levels and plant recovery. An effective alternative is to stabilize the microbial population responsible for degradation of the surfactant on an aerobic bioreactor and process the waste water prior to utilization in the hydroponic solution (Wisniewski and Bubenheim, 1993). A sensitive bioassay indicates that the surfactant phytotoxicity is suppressed by more than 90% within 5 hours of introduction of the gray water to the bioreactor; processing for more than 12 hours degrades more than 99% of the phytotoxin. Vapor Compression Distillation (VCD) is a physical / chemical method for water purification which employees sequential distillation steps to separate water from solids and to volatilize contaminants. The solids from the waste water are concentrated in a brine and the pure product water (70 - 90% of the total waste water volume depending on operating conditions) retains non of the phytotoxic effects. Results of the bioassay were used to guide evaluations of the suitability of recovered gray water following biological and VCD processing for hydroponic lettuce production in controlled environments. Lettuce crops were grown for 28 days with 100% of the input water supplied with recovered water from the biological processor or VCD. When compared with the growth of plants in control hydroponic solution containing pure deionized water, no growth difference could be measured resulting from any of the recovered water treatments. Both biological treatment and VCD offer alternative technology approaches to recovering water from waste streams appropriate for input into a crop production system. A high level of crop performance (food, air, and water production) can be maintained with either processor; selection decisions can be based on other factors regarding system integration.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Bubenheim, David L.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Harper, Lynn D.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Wignarajah, Kanapathipillai
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Greene, Catherine
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1994
Subject Category
Environment Pollution
Meeting Information
30th COSPAR Scientific Assembly(Hamburg)
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 199-61-12
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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