The use of constructed wetlands represents an innovative approach to wastewater treatment. However, the treatment performance of constructed wetlands has been variable due to an incomplete knowledge of the hydraulic characteristics. Current design methods idealise constructed wetlands as plug flow reactors ignoring the existence of longitudinal dispersion, short-circuiting and stagnant regions. The overall effect will be a reduction of treatment efficiency at the outlet. This thesis investigates the hydraulic characteristics of a subsurface flow wetland using a fluorescence dye tracer so as to determine the difference between theoretical and actual retention times and their effect on treatment efficiency. A thorough review of the literature is undertaken, firstly examining wetland systems and their treatment mechanisms, it then reviews their hydraulic characteristics and design considerations while finally discussing dye tracing studies. A series of dye tracing trials were undertaken on a pilot scale gravel bed wetland with a theoretical retention time of four days. The results from this research are presented as plots of dye concentration versus time at the outlet. These results are analysed in terms of chemical reactor theory and their implications on performance of various treatment mechanisms is discussed.