Long-term pollutant removal performance and mitigation of rainwater quality deterioration with ceramsite and Cyperus alternifolius in mountainous cities of China

  • Hongxiang ChaiEmail author
  • Zi Chen
  • Zhiyu Shao
  • Siping Deng
  • Liang Li
  • Yu Xiang
  • Li Li
  • Xuebin Hu
  • Qiang He
Research Article


Rainwater harvesting brings various desired environmental and social benefits in urban development. Tanks in rainwater harvesting systems need low-maintenance and low-cost approaches to manage water quality, especially for scattered small rainwater tanks associated with complex terrains in mountainous cities. Four rain barrels were set up to store roof runoff at the campus of Chongqing University, Chongqing, China. Barrel 1 (B1) and barrel 2 (B2) stored the first-flush water and the roof runoff with first-flush water diverted, respectively, while barrel 3 (B3) was loaded with a biological ceramsite and barrel 4 (B4) used biological ceramsite as a substrate media and planted with Cyperus alternifolius (C. alternifolius) to treat the first-flush water. The performances of the rain barrels were evaluated as well as the variations in water quality parameters were examined. The removal efficiency of B3 was 48.2%, 76.0%, 44.3%, and 24.6% for COD, NH4+–N, TN, and TP, respectively, while B4 had removal efficiencies of 93.4%, 71.0%, 75.0%, and 76.5% for COD, NH4+–N, TN, and TP, respectively. B4 had BOD, NH4+–N, TN, and TP concentrations within the class III Chinese Standard requirement after a storage period of about 240 days. Furthermore, the turbidity in B4 kept dropping. Thus, B4 is a more promising alternative for water quality management in mountainous cities of China.


Biological ceramsite Cyperus alternifolius Rain barrel Rainwater harvesting Water quality 



Barrels storing the first-flush roof runoff


Barrels storing the roof runoff with first-flush water diverted


Barrels filled with a biological ceramsite layer storing the first-flush roof runoff


Barrels filled a biological ceramsite layer planting C. alternifolius storing the first-flush roof runoff


Chemical oxygen demand


COD concentration (mg L−1)


Ammonia nitrogen concentration (mg L−1)


Total nitrogen concentration (mg L−1)


Total phosphorus concentration (mg L−1)




Ammonia nitrogen




Suspended solids


Total nitrogen


Total phosphorus


Funding information

This work was supported by the National Key R&D program of China [grant number 2017YFC0404704].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_6328_MOESM1_ESM.docx (140 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 140 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Three Gorges Reservoir Region’s Eco-Environment, Ministry of EducationChongqing UniversityChongqingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.National Centre for International Research of Low-carbon and Green BuildingsChongqing UniversityChongqingPeople’s Republic of China

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