Household Wastewater Management

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Much of the water used by homes, industries, and businesses must be treated before it is released back to the environment. In households, wastewater contains potential contaminants such as disease-causing bacteria, infectious viruses, household chemicals, and excess nutrients such as nitrate. Such contaminants can cause various types of diseases like liver infections, hepatitis, gastroenteritis etc.


Why should I be aware of this?

If we release wastewater directly into the environment, we let out harmful bacteria. Human waste naturally contains coliform bacteria (for example, E. coli) and other bacteria that can cause disease. Once water becomes infected with these bacteria, it becomes a health hazard.

No one wants to live in a place that stinks, is full of deadly bacteria and cannot support aquatic life. That's why communities build wastewater treatment plants and enforce laws against the release of raw sewage into the environment.

Potential contaminants in household wastewater include disease-causing bacteria, infectious viruses, household chemicals, and excess nutrients such as nitrate. Viruses can infect the liver, causing hepatitis, or infect the lining of the intestine, causing gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea). If coliform organisms (a group of indicator bacteria) are found in well water, the water is potentially dangerous for drinking and food preparation. Septic systems are a potential source of this pollution, as are livestock yards

All about household wastewater management

Wastewater is treated and disposed from the home by using household wastewater treatment systems which are properly constructed and maintained to function for many years and minimize the potential for groundwater contamination.

A household wastewater treatment system, also called a septic system, comprises a septic tank and drain field. The septic tank routes wastewater from bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room to the septic tank where liquids and solids are separated. Such solids as grease and soap float to the top and form a scum layer, while others settle to the bottom where they can be partially decomposed by bacteria.

Liquid from the septic tank is discharged into the drain field where harmful, disease-causing microorganisms, organics, and nutrients are removed by adsorption or biological degradation. Before planning construction of a household wastewater treatment system take into account both design and location to assess the potential for groundwater contamination.

Quantity of wastewater

It is important to reduce the volume of wastewater entering the treatment systems. Lesser the flow means better treatment, longer system-life and less chance of overflow. The quantity of water used depends upon the number of people using the dwelling.

Reducing the volume of water entering the system will improve the treatment by increasing the time the waste spends in the system, thus providing more time for settling, separation and more soil contact.

What can I do?

  • Both the septic tank and the drain field have to be taken into consideration while designing a safety system. Septic tanks must be watertight and built of a corrosion and decay resistant material such as concrete. The capacity of a septic system should match the size of your household.
  • If you know the liquid capacity of your septic tank in cubic feet, multiply that figure by 7.5 to find its capacity in gallons. If you do not know the capacity of your septic tank, you can work out an estimated size by assuming that the capacity is equal to the size recommended for the number of bedrooms that were in the house when the septic tank was constructed.
  • Solids from septic tanks should be pumped out every two to three years. If a garbage disposal is used, a septic tank should be pumped every one to two years.
  • Avoid dumping grease and oils down the drain as they are likely to plug sewer pipes or build up in the septic tank and plug the inlet. Keep a separate container for waste grease and oil and throw them out with the trash.
  • Household chemicals that are poured down the drain can cause damage to the septic system. Bacteria present in the septic system breakdown the sewage. When household chemicals are added to the system, they may destroy the bacteria, reducing the effectiveness of the sewage treatment process.
  • Adopt modern and efficient efficient plumbing fixtures as they can reduce home water use considerably.


  • Wastewater contains nitrogen and phosphates that, being fertilizers, encourage the growth of algae. Excessive algae growth can block sunlight and foul the water. [1]
  • Wastewater contains organic material that bacteria in the environment will start decomposing. When they do, these bacteria consume oxygen in the water. [1]
  • The resulting lack of oxygen kills fish. [1]
  • The suspended solids in wastewater make the water look murky and can affect the ability of many fish to breathe and see. [1]
  • The increased algae, reduced oxygen and murkiness destroy the ability of a stream or lake to support wildlife, and all of the fish, frogs and other life forms quickly die. [1]


  • Wastewater management
  • Assessing Your Household Wastewater Treatment Practices
  • How Sewer and Septic Systems Work


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 HowStuffWorks