Bulgaria: Constructed Wetlands; Sustainable Wastewater Treatment for Rural and Peri-Urban Communities (#431)

Rural and peri-urban areas are often neglected when making infrastructure investments. However, these areas could gain from treatment of domestic wastewater through the construction of wetlands. In Bulgaria, the problem of wastewater treatment was addressed through the construction of a wetland for treating wastewater from domestic sources. The lesson learnt is the importance of community initiatives.  


Rural and peri-urban areas are at the bottom of the interest regarding the infrastructure investments. The government favours large investments targeting urbanized centers. Also, there is a little interest of water sector companies due to high investments with a low future return of the investment. 

Small communities are not aware of technologies that are alternative to traditional waste water treatment methods. The treatment of wastewater as a medium to address sanitation, public health and environmental protection as a medium of promoting safe drinking water might suit to peri-urban and rural communities. This requires capacity building and awareness raising among mayors, local community based organizations but also governmental decision makers and ministries.

A project conducted in peri-urban areas in Bulgaria aimed to advocate for the construction of wetlands. Background information on what constructed wetland entails and the type of wastewater that can be treated in a constructed wetland was provided.

Constructed wetland was identified to be useful in the treatment of different types of waste water streams such as domestic wastewater, grey water, urban waste water and industrial waste water.

Action taken

To address the problem of waste water treatment the construction of a wetland plant project that treats domestic waste water from toilet, laundry and kitchen at a handicap centre in Vidrare was adopted. It is the first ever constructed wetland in Bulgaria.

The project was launched in 2008 by the municipality of Pravets, WECF (NGO) and ECOWorld 2007 of Bulgaria. Funding for the project was obtained from the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU).

The planning and design was done by Otterwasser (Lubeck/Germany) and ECO project (Bulgaria). Construction commenced in October 2010 and was completed by April 2011. Investment cost of the project was estimated to amount to 45.000 EUR.

It was emphasized that the maintenance of the wetland has to be done on a yearly basis. The involvement of local community was made from the beginning of the project and was a pre-condition of the successful implementation.

Also, it is very imperative to use materials available in the region like gravel and coarse sand.

Lessons learnt

Constructed wetland was identified to be a suitable low-cost technology option for improved wastewater treatment that would serve as a demonstration plant and could be replicated by other municipalities in Bulgaria.

A number of operational and maintenance tasks are required in order to ensure the proper performance of the plant.

Photo credit: Valentin Hristov