Grey Water Treatment of a 300 Ton Wine Cellar

Using bamboo-based phytoremediation together with indigenous microorganisms IMO to treat grey waste water from a 300 ton wine cellar

We have recently installed a treatment plant to process the grey waste water from a wine cellar situated in Olivedale, the Western Cape.

SAM 3983The recently completed 300 ton win cellar

Why bamboo? In a study by a team of French scientists, backed by the European Union, using bamboo phytoremediation of grey water, it was verified that bamboo is able to break down nitrogenous compounds (including nitrites and nitrates) and phosphates in effluent with an efficiency of over 99.5%. We have added a two stage IMO low energy aerobic bio-digester to pre treat the grey water and optimise the process.

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Waste water pipes from the cellar lead into the sump tanks with a final shade cloth solids catchment cover

The grey cellar water is first collected into a sump tank, from drainage channels cast into the cellar floor.  The larger solids (waste grapes, skins and stalks) are  separated in waste traps incorporated in the floor channel of the cellar and a final shade cloth cover over the sump tank ensures large solids are removed.


The bio digester consists of a two stage system where the primary tank receives the water pumped in from the cellar sump tank. The water is inoculated with IMO concentrate, collected from bamboo groves and old indigenous forests in the Langeberg mountains: -  Grootvadersbosch and Duivelsbos.




"Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it and it will grow our food, our fuel, and our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it"

From Vedas Sanskrit Scripture – 1500 BC


The sump tank it is aerated to breakdown the disinfectants used in the cellar before being pumped to a two stage IMO inoculated aerobic bio-digester. We opted for the aerobic bio digester rather than an anaerobic design because it produces no foul smell. By inoculating it with IMO we ensure a healthy population of organisms that not only digest the suspended solids, they are also extremely beneficial to the soil and bamboo when the treated water is irrigated onto the bamboo grove.


SAM 3960

Two stage bio digester

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The tanks are partially buried for ease of maintenance

Using low power consumption (100w) aeration pump, the water is continuously aerated, the digested water flows to the secondary tank via a gravity levelling into the secondary tank where it is also IMO inoculated and continuously aerated.

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Low power aerobic pumps

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The foam on top of the bio digester is an indication of a healthy IMO population

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A float switch connected to a small irrigation pump delivers the treated water to the bamboo

The secondary tank has a float switch which regulates a small irrigation pump that discharges the treated water onto bamboo grove. Bamboo has a  shallow high density root mass, which makes it the ideal choice for the final stage phytoremediation.

SAM 3954

The treated water is delivered via irrigation pipes to the bamboo


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The bamboo doubles as a screen and windbreak

The lab test results of CODs (Chemical Oxygen Demand) were measure at 131mg/L are within the 400 mg/L prescribed IPW specification limit:-

Max irrigation of 500 m3/ day if COD is below 400 mg/L.  Max irrigation of only 50 m3/day if irrigation is below 5000 mg/L.


  • 1 x Pre-treatment sump tank
  • 2 x  bio-digester tanks
  • 3 x aeration pumps
  • 1 x irrigation pump
  • Ph meter
  • Irrigation pipe
  • Bamboo grove


  • Indigenous microorganisms IMO
  • Lime as and when required, based on water ph

Power consumption

  • 3 x aeration pumps – this runs continuously (total 275W)
  • 1 x irrigation pump – this runs intermittently based on load (1100W when operating)


  • Cleaning the traps, depending on cellar activities the cellar the most will be daily cleaning during the pressing of the grapes
  • Inoculating the digesters with IMO will vary depending on the system load but once a week should suffice
  • Weekly ph testing of the water and adding lime (if required)

This system can be scaled based on load and can be applied to other grey water treatments like dairy and piggery waste water