Wastewater is any water that has been contaminated by human use. Wastewater is "used water from any combination of domestic, industrial, commercial or agricultural activities, surface runoff or stormwater, and any sewer inflow or sewer infiltration".Types of wastewater include: domestic wastewater from households, municipal wastewater from communities (also called sewage) and industrial wastewater. Wastewater can contain physical, chemical and biological pollutants. Its characteristics vary depending on the source.
Management of wastewater includes its collection, treatment, reuse or disposal. Wastewater that is produced by activities within a municipality is usually collected and transported in a sanitary sewer or in a combined sewer that conveys stormwater runoff, sewage and pre-treated industrial wastewater. After treatment at a wastewater treatment plant, treated wastewater (also called effluent) is discharged to a receiving water body. The terms "wastewater reuse" and "water reclamation" apply if the treated wastewater is used for another purpose. Wastewater that is discharged to the environment without suitable treatment can cause water pollution.
Sources of wastewater include households, municipalities, industries, urban runoff and agriculture.
When the source is from households, the wastewater is called sewage. It can come from the following domestic or household activities:
Activities producing industrial wastewater include:
Other related activities or events:
Wastewater can be diluted or mixed with other types of water through the following mechanisms:
The composition of wastewater varies widely. This is a partial list of pollutants that may be contained in wastewater:
If the wastewater contains human feces, as is the case for sewage, then it may also contain pathogens of one of the four types:
It can also contain non-pathogenic bacteria and animals such as insects, arthropods and small fish.
Wastewater quality indicators are laboratory test methodologies to assess suitability of wastewater for disposal, treatment or reuse. Tests selected vary with the intended use or discharge location. Tests measure physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the wastewater. Physical characteristics include temperature and solids. Chemical characteristics include pH value, dissolved oxygen concentrations, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD), nitrogen, phosphorus, chlorine. Biological characteristics are determined with bioassays and aquatic toxicology tests.Both the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) tests are a measure of the relative oxygen-depletion effect of a waste contaminant. Both have been widely adopted as a measure of pollution effect. Any oxidizable material present in an aerobic natural waterway or in an industrial wastewater will be oxidized both by biochemical (bacterial) or chemical processes. The result is that the oxygen content of the water will be decreased.
Management of wastewater includes its collection, treatment, reuse or disposal. It is part of the broad term sanitation which includes not only the management of wastewater but also the management of human excreta, solid waste and stormwater.
Wastewater from factories, power plants and other industrial activities is extensively regulated in developed nations, and treatment is required before discharge to surface waters. (See Industrial wastewater treatment.)
In many cities, municipal wastewater is carried together with stormwater, in a combined sewer system, to a sewage treatment plant. In some urban areas, municipal wastewater is carried separately in sanitary sewers and runoff from streets is carried in storm drains. Access to these systems, for maintenance purposes, is typically through a manhole.
During high precipitation periods a combined sewer system may experience a combined sewer overflow event, which forces untreated sewage to flow directly to receiving waters. This can pose a serious threat to public health and the surrounding environment.
In less-developed or rural regions, sewage may drain directly into major watersheds with minimal or no treatment. This usually has serious impacts on the quality of an environment and on human health. Pathogens can cause a variety of illnesses. Some chemicals pose risks even at very low concentrations and can remain a threat for long periods of time because of bioaccumulation in animal or human tissue.
Wastewater treatment is a process used to remove contaminants from wastewater and convert it into an effluent that can be returned to the water cycle. Once returned to the water cycle, the effluent creates an acceptable impact on the environment or is reused for various purposes (called water reclamation). The treatment process takes place in a wastewater treatment plant. There are several kinds of wastewater which are treated at the appropriate type of wastewater treatment plant. For domestic wastewater (also called municipal wastewater or sewage), the treatment plant is called a sewage treatment plant. For industrial wastewater, treatment either takes place in a separate industrial wastewater treatment plant, or in a sewage treatment plant (usually after some form of pre-treatment). Further types of wastewater treatment plants include agricultural wastewater treatment plants and leachate treatment plants.Processes commonly used include phase separation (such as sedimentation), biological and chemical processes (such as oxidation) or polishing. The main by-product from wastewater treatment plants is a type of sludge (for example sewage sludge) which is usually treated in the same or another wastewater treatment plant. :Ch.14 Biogas can be another by-product if anaerobic treatment processes are used.
Water reclamation (also called wastewater reuse) is the process of converting wastewater into water that can be reused for other purposes. Types of reuse include: urban reuse, agricultural reuse (irrigation), environmental reuse, industrial reuse, planned potable reuse, de facto wastewater reuse (unplanned potable reuse). For example, reuse may include irrigation of gardens and agricultural fields or replenishing surface water and groundwater (i.e., groundwater recharge). Reused water may also be directed toward fulfilling certain needs in residences (e.g. toilet flushing), businesses, and industry, and could even be treated to reach drinking water standards. Treated wastewater reuse for irrigation is a long-established practice, especially in arid countries. Reusing wastewater as part of sustainable water management allows water to remain as an alternative water source for human activities. This can reduce scarcity and alleviate pressures on groundwater and other natural water bodies.
There are several technologies used to treat wastewater for reuse. A combination of these technologies can meet strict treatment standards and make sure that the processed water is hygienically safe, meaning free from pathogens. The following are some of the typical technologies: Ozonation, ultrafiltration, aerobic treatment (membrane bioreactor), forward osmosis, reverse osmosis, advanced oxidation. Some water demanding activities do not require high grade water. In this case, wastewater can be reused with little or no treatment.The cost of reclaimed water exceeds that of potable water in many regions of the world, where a fresh water supply is plentiful. The costs of water reclamation options might be compared to the costs of alternatives options which also achieve similar effects of freshwater savings, namely greywater reuse systems, rainwater harvesting and stormwater recovery, or seawater desalination.
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Sanitation refers to public health conditions related to clean drinking water and adequate treatment and disposal of human excreta and sewage. Preventing human contact with feces is part of sanitation, as is hand washing with soap. Sanitation systems aim to protect human health by providing a clean environment that will stop the transmission of disease, especially through the fecal–oral route. For example, diarrhea, a main cause of malnutrition and stunted growth in children, can be reduced through adequate sanitation. There are many other diseases which are easily transmitted in communities that have low levels of sanitation, such as ascariasis, cholera, hepatitis, polio, schistosomiasis, and trachoma, to name just a few.
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies, usually as a result of human activities. Water bodies include for example lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater. Water pollution results when contaminants are introduced into the natural environment. For example, releasing inadequately treated wastewater into natural water bodies can lead to degradation of aquatic ecosystems. In turn, this can lead to public health problems for people living downstream. They may use the same polluted river water for drinking or bathing or irrigation. Water pollution is the leading worldwide cause of death and disease, e.g. due to water-borne diseases.
A sanitary sewer or foul sewer is an underground pipe or tunnel system for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings to treatment facilities or disposal. Sanitary sewers are part of an overall system called a sewage system or sewerage.
Wastewater treatment is a process used to remove contaminants from wastewater and convert it into an effluent that can be returned to the water cycle. Once returned to the water cycle, the effluent creates an acceptable impact on the environment or is reused for various purposes. The treatment process takes place in a wastewater treatment plant. There are several kinds of wastewater which are treated at the appropriate type of wastewater treatment plant. For domestic wastewater, the treatment plant is called a sewage treatment plant. For industrial wastewater, treatment either takes place in a separate industrial wastewater treatment plant, or in a sewage treatment plant. Further types of wastewater treatment plants include agricultural wastewater treatment plants and leachate treatment plants.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Its objective is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters; recognizing the responsibilities of the states in addressing pollution and providing assistance to states to do so, including funding for publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment; and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.
Water reclamation is the process of converting wastewater into water that can be reused for other purposes. Types of reuse include: urban reuse, agricultural reuse (irrigation), environmental reuse, industrial reuse, planned potable reuse, de facto wastewater reuse. For example, reuse may include irrigation of gardens and agricultural fields or replenishing surface water and groundwater. Reused water may also be directed toward fulfilling certain needs in residences, businesses, and industry, and could even be treated to reach drinking water standards. Treated wastewater reuse for irrigation is a long-established practice, especially in arid countries. Reusing wastewater as part of sustainable water management allows water to remain as an alternative water source for human activities. This can reduce scarcity and alleviate pressures on groundwater and other natural water bodies.
A constructed wetland (CW) is an artificial wetland to treat municipal or industrial wastewater, greywater or stormwater runoff. It may also be designed for land reclamation after mining, or as a mitigation step for natural areas lost to land development. Constructed wetlands are engineered systems that use natural functions vegetation, soil, and organisms to treat wastewater. Depending on the type of wastewater the design of the constructed wetland has to be adjusted accordingly. Constructed wetlands have been used to treat both centralized and on-site wastewater. Primary treatment is recommended when there is a large amount of suspended solids or soluble organic matter.
Waste stabilization ponds are ponds designed and built for wastewater treatment to reduce the organic content and remove pathogens from wastewater. They are man-made depressions confined by earthen structures. Wastewater or "influent" enters on one side of the waste stabilization pond and exits on the other side as "effluent", after spending several days in the pond, during which treatment processes take place.
Agricultural wastewater treatment is a farm management agenda for controlling pollution from confined animal operations and from surface runoff that may be contaminated by chemicals in fertilizer, pesticides, animal slurry, crop residues or irrigation water. Agricultural wastewater treatment is required for continuous confined animal operations like milk and egg production may be performed in plants using mechanized treatment units similar to those used for industrial wastewater; but where land is available for ponds, settling basins and facultative lagoons may have lower operational costs for seasonal use conditions from breeding or harvest cycles.
Industrial wastewater treatment describes the processes used for treating wastewater that is produced by industries as an undesirable by-product. After treatment, the treated industrial wastewater may be reused or released to a sanitary sewer or to a surface water in the environment. Most industrial processes, such as petroleum refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants have onsite facilities to treat their wastewaters so that the pollutant concentrations in the treated wastewater comply with the regulations regarding disposal of wastewaters into sewers or into rivers, lakes or oceans. Industrial wastewater treatment plants are required where municipal sewage treatment plants are unavailable, do not have sufficient capacity or cannot adequately treat specific industrial wastewaters.
Onsite sewage facilities (OSSF), also called septic systems, are wastewater systems designed to treat and dispose of effluent on the same property that produces the wastewater, in areas not served by public sewage infrastructure.
Effluent is an outflowing of water or gas to a natural body of water, from a structure such as a wastewater treatment plant, sewer pipe, or industrial outfall. Effluent, in engineering, is the stream exiting a chemical reactor.
A combined sewer is a sewage collection system of pipes, tunnels, and bodies of water designed to simultaneously collect surface runoff and sewage water in a shared system. This type of gravity sewer design is no longer used in almost any instance worldwide when constructing new sewer systems. Modern-day sewer designs exclude surface runoff from sanitary sewers, but many older cities and towns continue to operate previously constructed combined sewer systems.
Secondary treatment is a treatment process for wastewater to achieve a certain degree of effluent quality by using a sewage treatment plant with physical phase separation to remove settleable solids and a biological process to remove dissolved and suspended organic compounds. After this kind of treatment, the wastewater may be called as secondary-treated wastewater. Secondary treatment is the portion of a sewage treatment sequence removing dissolved and colloidal compounds measured as biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). Secondary treatment is traditionally applied to the liquid portion of sewage after primary treatment has removed settleable solids and floating material. Secondary treatment is usually performed by microorganisms in a managed aerobic habitat. Bacteria and protozoa consume biodegradable soluble organic contaminants while reproducing to form cells of biological solids. Secondary treatment by biochemical oxidation of dissolved and colloidal organic compounds is widely used in sewage treatment and is applicable to some agricultural and industrial wastewaters.
Sewage sludge treatment describes the processes used to manage and dispose of sewage sludge produced during sewage treatment. Sludge is mostly water with lesser amounts of solid material removed from liquid sewage. Primary sludge includes settleable solids removed during primary treatment in primary clarifiers. Secondary sludge separated in secondary clarifiers includes treated sewage sludge from secondary treatment bioreactors.
Sewage treatment is a type of wastewater treatment which aims to remove contaminants from sewage. Sewage contains wastewater from households and businesses and possibly pre-treated industrial wastewater. Physical, chemical, and biological processes are used to remove contaminants and produce treated wastewater that is safe enough for release into the environment. A by-product of sewage treatment is a semi-solid waste or slurry, called sewage sludge. The sludge has to undergo further treatment before being suitable for disposal or application to land. The term "sewage treatment plant" is often used interchangeably with the term "wastewater treatment plant".
Sewage is a type of wastewater that is produced by a community of people. It is characterized by volume or rate of flow, physical condition, chemical and toxic constituents, and its bacteriologic status. It consists mostly of greywater, blackwater ; soaps and detergents; and toilet paper. Proper collection and safe, nuisance-free disposal of the liquid wastes of a community are legally recognized as a necessity in an urbanized, industrialized society.
Resource recovery is using wastes as an input material to create valuable products as new outputs. The aim is to reduce the amount of waste generated, thereby reducing the need for landfill space, and optimising the values created from waste. Resource recovery delays the need to use raw materials in the manufacturing process. Materials found in municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste, commercial waste and industrial wastes can be used to recover resources for the manufacturing of new materials and products. Plastic, paper, aluminium, glass and metal are examples of where value can be found in waste.
Reuse of human excreta refers to the safe, beneficial use of treated human excreta after applying suitable treatment steps and risk management approaches that are customized for the intended reuse application. Beneficial uses of the treated excreta may focus on using the plant-available nutrients that are contained in the treated excreta. They may also make use of the organic matter and energy contained in the excreta. To a lesser extent, reuse of the excreta's water content might also take place, although this is better known as water reclamation from municipal wastewater. The intended reuse applications for the nutrient content may include: soil conditioner or fertilizer in agriculture or horticultural activities. Other reuse applications, which focus more on the organic matter content of the excreta, include use as a fuel source or as an energy source in the form of biogas.
Decentralized wastewater systems convey, treat and dispose or reuse wastewater from small and low-density communities, buildings and dwellings in remote areas, individual public or private properties. Wastewater flow is generated when appropriate water supply is available within the buildings or close to them.