Nature & Wellness

The Most Photographed Spot In Serenbe

The most photographed spot in Serenbe isn't what you think.

It isn’t the wildflower meadow. It’s not the pasture, farm, or even down by the lake. The most photographed spot at Serenbe is the wastewater treatment plant.

That’s right. At least a few times a week, a photographer and a bride or family head halfway down the elevated wooden walkway - with trees and tall grass all around - then stop, smile, and shoot. What’s just out of frame is a cutting-edge decentralized wastewater collection, treatment, and reuse system that stays true to Serenbe’s water conservation and stewardship beliefs. It’s a big reason why their water consumption is 25% lower than the national average.

Designed by Biohabits, a conservation planning and ecological restoration firm in Maryland, the system has four components: “The plant is comprised of man-made constructed wetlands - primarily cattails and bulrush - filtration basin, and circulating pumps,” writes Megan Kimble and non-profit online magazine “Tanks collect household wastewater, retain the solids for decomposition, and pass on the liquids to the plant for natural treatment. Once treated, some of the water is pumped to a nearby cow pasture and released into the ground through piped sub-surface drip lines. The remaining greywater is pumped throughout the community for use in sub-surface drip irrigation.”

Translation: This is not your everyday industrial eyesore.

That’s hard for some people to wrap their minds around - especially those who make and enforce wastewater treatment laws.

“When the plan was finished, I was told I had to put a chain-link fence around the treatment plant,” said Serenbe founder Steve Nygren. “I told the agency, there’s nothing toxic about it. Nothing to fall into. ‘No no,’ they told me. ‘You’ve got to put one up.’”

Instead, Steve tapped Reed-Hilderbrand, a renowned landscape architecture firm in the Boston area. “I needed it to be beautiful to make a point to the world and it worked,” Steve said. “Our beautiful little wastewater treatment plant has become a model for water conservation and design.”

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