Updated on January 12, 2024


Created on October 1, 2020

The Living Machine

Upcoming Update

The Living Machine is a form of ecological sewage treatment that mimics a natural wetland system, marketed by Living Machine Systems, L3C.

Tested By
  • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)
Content Partners


Product Description

The Living Machine is a form of ecological sewage treatment based on the principles of wetland ecology, pioneered by US ecological designer Dr. John Todd in the 1970’s. The Living Machine is designed and marketed by Living Machine Systems, L3C in Charlottesville, VA, USA. The Living Machine uses engineering, plants, and bacteria to efficiently treat and reuse wastewater.

Target SDGs

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Market Suggested Retail Price


Target Users (Target Impact Group)

Community, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Public Sector Agencies

Distributors / Implementing Organizations

This product is distributed by Living Water Systems, L3C.

Manufacturing/Building Method


Intellectural Property Type


User Provision Model

This product can be acquired by contacting the manufacturer.

Distributions to Date Status

The exact number of distributions is unknown, however, Living Machine Systems, L3C state the Living Machine System has been installed in 30 locations globally.

Flow rate (L/min)

105.15 to 2628.76 L/min. Flow rate is dependant on site specifications.

Power Supply Type


Technology type

Sedimentation, filtration, clarification, adsorption, nitrification/denitrification, volatilization and anaerobic and aerobic decomposition.

BOD Removal Efficiency


COD removal efficiency


NH4-N Removal Efficiency


TSS removal efficiency


Total Phosphorus Removal Efficiency


Fecal Coliform Removal Efficiency


Design Specifications

The Living Machine is made up of several components to mimic the process of natural coastal wetlands. The patented tidal-flow technology pumps wastewater into ‘tidal-flow’ wetland cells (gravel filled planters) which are flooded and drained to oxygenate the wastewater. The process is as follows:

  1. Primary tank: Untreated wastewater enters to allow solids to settle and degrade before being pumped to the next stage.
  2. Stage 1 Tidal Flow Wetland Cells: these aggregate media-filled planters are alternately drained and filled up to 18 times per day. Biofilms, made from microscopic plants and animals, consume the waste in the wastewater.
  3. Stage 2 Tidal Flow Wetland Cells: a portion of water moves to Stage 2 and undergoes the same process, where smaller treatment media provides faster treatment.
  4. Polishing System: water undergoes final polishing and treatment such as dual-stage filtration, UV disinfection and/or chlorine disinfection.
  5. Reuse Tank: treated water enters the reuse tank before moving on to different reuse applications.

Product Schematics

Technical Support

Provided by the manufacturer.

Replacement Components




Manufacturer Specified Performance Parameters

The manufacturer specifies the following as performance targets:

  • Attractive
  • Low Capital Cost
  • Energy Efficient
  • Low operation and maintenance expenses
  • Small footprint
  • Good reuse quality
The Living Machine is capable of tertiary treatment, which requires low costs to operate and doesn’t require chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

Vetted Performance Status

The US EPA has tested the use of constructed wetland technology performance for BOD (<30 mg/L) and TSS (<30 mg/L) removal.


Wastewater must be handled, treated and disposed of in accordance with hygiene and environmental standards before reuse.

Complementary Technical Systems

The Living Machine is a modular system. Additional wastewater treatment modules and storage can be implemented to meet the site requirements.

Academic Research and References

Austin, D., 2006, Influence of cation exchange capacity (CEC) in a tidal flow, flood and drain wastewater treatment wetland, Ecological Engineering 28: 35-45.

Behrends, L., et al., 2007, Integrated constructed wetland systems: design, operation, and performance of low-cost decentralized wastewater treatment systems, Water Science Technology 55: 155-161.

Austin, D., Nivala, J., 2009, Energy requirements for nitrification and biological nitrogen removal in engineered wetlands, Ecological Engineering 35: 184-192.

O’Connel, K. A., 2011, Ecologically Inspired, Architect.

Goal 6. Available: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal6


Compliance with regulations

The Living Machine is in compliance with US EPA, EPA/625/R-99/010 standards for constructed wetlands treatment of municipal wastewaters.

Evaluation methods

Living Machine cites high quality treated water for reuse as evaluation criteria.

Other Information

Tidal process patented. Living-Machine-brochure. EPA - Wastewater Technology Fact Sheet. EPA - Constructed Wetlands Treatment of Municipal Wastewaters - Manual

Leave a Reply

Explore similar solutions


January 16, 2024

Living Water Treatment Systems

Read Solution

Implemented by

George Greene III, PE, PhD


February 21, 2024

EsVendo Sanitary Vending Machine

Read Solution

Implemented by

Esther Mwangi, EsVendo


February 26, 2024

AECT Impact 2001A Compressed Earth Block Machine

Read Solution

Implemented by

Advanced Earthen Construction Technologies (AECT)


February 1, 2024

CAMARTEC Oil Press Machine

Read Solution

Implemented by



February 5, 2024

Gradian Health Systems Universal Anaesthesia Machine

Read Solution

Implemented by

Gradian Health Systems


February 1, 2024

Lifeway Solar Cow Milking Machine

Read Solution

Implemented by



February 16, 2024

Mini-Milking Machine

Read Solution

Implemented by

Dairy Dynamics


January 17, 2024

Banza Toilet

Read Solution

Implemented by

Patrick Kiruki, Banza Sanitation


January 10, 2024

BushProof Biosand Filter

Read Solution

Implemented by

Dr. David Manz, University of Calgary


January 4, 2024

Elephant Toilet

Read Solution

Implemented by

The Africa Trust

All Solutions

Contribute to E4C's Library of Breakthrough Sustainable Development Technology Solutions

Suggest A Solution

Get more information about Solutions Library and its features.

Learn More

Have thoughts on how we can improve?

Give Us Feedback

Join a global community of changemakers.

Become A Member