Wastewater

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Greywater (a type of wastewater) in a settling tank Greywater settling tank and grease trap (3109542163).jpg
Greywater (a type of wastewater) in a settling tank

Wastewater (or waste water) is any water that has been affected 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". [1] Therefore, wastewater is a byproduct of domestic, industrial, commercial or agricultural activities. The characteristics of wastewater vary depending on the source. 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.

Water Chemical compound with formula H2O

Water is a transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere, and the fluids of most living organisms. It is vital for all known forms of life, even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. Its chemical formula is H2O, meaning that each of its molecules contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, connected by covalent bonds. Water is the name of the liquid state of H2O at standard ambient temperature and pressure. It forms precipitation in the form of rain and aerosols in the form of fog. Clouds are formed from suspended droplets of water and ice, its solid state. When finely divided, crystalline ice may precipitate in the form of snow. The gaseous state of water is steam or water vapor. Water moves continually through the water cycle of evaporation, transpiration (evapotranspiration), condensation, precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea.

Surface runoff The flow of excess stormwater, meltwater, or water from other sources over the Earths surface

Surface runoff is the flow of water that occurs when excess stormwater, meltwater, or other sources flow over the Earth's surface. This can occur when the soil is saturated to full capacity, and rain arrives more quickly than soil can absorb it. Surface runoff often occurs because impervious areas do not allow water to soak into the ground. Surface runoff is a major component of the water cycle. It is the primary agent of soil erosion by water. The land area producing runoff that drains to a common point is called a drainage basin.

Stormwater water that originates during precipitation events and snow/ice melt

Stormwater, also spelled storm water, is water that originates from precipitation events, including snow and ice melt. Stormwater can soak into the soil (infiltrate), be stored on the land surface in ponds and puddles, evaporate, or runoff. Most runoff is conveyed directly to nearby streams, rivers, or other water bodies without treatment.

Contents

Households may produce wastewater from flush toilets, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, bath tubs, and showers. Households that use dry toilets produce less wastewater than those that use flush toilets.

Flush toilet toilet that disposes of human excreta by using water to flush it

A flush toilet is a toilet that disposes of human excreta by using water to flush it through a drainpipe to another location for disposal, thus maintaining a separation between humans and their excreta. Flush toilets can be designed for sitting or for squatting, in the case of squat toilets. The opposite of a flush toilet is a dry toilet, which uses no water for flushing.

Dry toilet A toilet that operates without flush water

A dry toilet is a toilet that operates without flush water, unlike a flush toilet. The dry toilet may have a raised pedestal on which the user can sit, or a squat pan over which the user squats in the case of a squat toilet. In both cases, the excreta falls through a drop hole.

Wastewater may be conveyed in a sanitary sewer that conveys only sewage. Alternatively, wastewater can be transported in a combined sewer that conveys both stormwater runoff and sewage, and possibly also 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 waste is used for another purpose. Wastewater that is discharged to the environment without suitable treatment can cause water pollution.

Sanitary sewer Underground pipe or tunnel system for transporting sewage from houses or buildings to treatment facilities or disposal

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.

Combined sewer Sewage collection system of pipes and tunnels designed to also collect surface runoff

A combined sewer is a sewage collection system of pipes and tunnels 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 every 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.

Reclaimed water Converting wastewater into water that can be reused for other purposes

Reclaimed or recycled water is the process of converting wastewater into water that can be reused for other purposes. 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. This last option is called either "direct potable reuse" or "indirect potable" reuse, depending on the approach used. Colloquially, the term "toilet to tap" also refers to potable reuse.

In developing countries and in rural areas with low population densities, wastewater is often treated by various on-site sanitation systems and not conveyed in sewers. These systems include septic tanks connected to drain fields, on-site sewage systems (OSS), vermifilter systems and many more.

Developing country Nation with a low living standard relative to other countries

A developing country is a country with a less developed industrial base and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. However, this definition is not universally agreed upon. There is also no clear agreement on which countries fit this category. A nation's GDP per capita compared with other nations can also be a reference point. In general, the United Nations accepts any country's claim of itself being "developing".

Septic tank method for basic wastewater treatment (on-site)

A septic tank is an underground chamber made of concrete, fiberglass, or plastic through which domestic wastewater (sewage) flows for basic treatment. Settling and anaerobic processes reduce solids and organics, but the treatment efficiency is only moderate. Septic tank systems are a type of simple onsite sewage facility (OSSF). They can be used in areas that are not connected to a sewerage system, such as rural areas. The treated liquid effluent is commonly disposed in a septic drain field, which provides further treatment. Nonetheless, groundwater pollution may occur and can be a problem.

Septic drain field A type of subsurface wastewater disposal facility

Septic drain fields, also called leach fields or leach drains, are subsurface wastewater disposal facilities used to remove contaminants and impurities from the liquid that emerges after anaerobic digestion in a septic tank. Organic materials in the liquid are catabolized by a microbial ecosystem.

Terminology

The overarching term sanitation includes the management of wastewater, human excreta, solid waste and stormwater. The term sewerage refers to the physical infrastructure required to transport and treat wastewater.

Sanitation public health conditions related to clean drinking water and adequate disposal of human excreta and sewage

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 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, trachoma, to name just a few.

Municipal solid waste Type of waste consisting of everyday items discarded by the public

Municipal solid waste (MSW), commonly known as trash or garbage in the United States and rubbish in Britain, is a waste type consisting of everyday items that are discarded by the public. "Garbage" can also refer specifically to food waste, as in a garbage disposal; the two are sometimes collected separately. In the European Union, the semantic definition is 'mixed municipal waste,' given waste code 20 03 01 in the European Waste Catalog. Although the waste may originate from a number of sources that has nothing to do with a municipality, the traditional role of municipalities in collecting and managing these kinds of waste have produced the particular etymology 'municipal.'

Sewerage infrastructure that conveys sewage or surface runoff

Sewerage is the infrastructure that conveys sewage or surface runoff using sewers. It encompasses components such as receiving drains, manholes, pumping stations, storm overflows, and screening chambers of the combined sewer or sanitary sewer. Sewerage ends at the entry to a sewage treatment plant or at the point of discharge into the environment. It is the system of pipes, chambers, manholes, etc. that conveys the sewage or storm water.

Sources

Sources of wastewater include the following domestic or household activities:

Human waste refers to the waste products of the human digestive system and the human metabolism, namely feces and urine. As part of a sanitation system that is in place, human waste is collected, transported, treated and disposed of or reused by one method or another, depending on the type of toilet being used, ability by the users to pay for services and other factors. Fecal sludge management is used to deal with fecal matter collected in on-site sanitation systems such as pit latrines and septic tanks.

Human feces Solid or semisolid remains of the food that could not be digested or absorbed in the small intestine of humans

Human feces are the solid or semisolid remains of the food that could not be digested or absorbed in the small intestine of humans, but has been rotted down by bacteria in the large intestine. It also contains bacteria and a relatively small amount of metabolic waste products such as bacterially altered bilirubin, and the dead epithelial cells from the lining of the gut. It is discharged through the anus during a process called defecation.

Urine Liquid by-product of metabolism in the bodies of many animals, including humans

Urine is a liquid by-product of metabolism in humans and in many other animals. Urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the urinary bladder. Urination results in urine being excreted from the body through the urethra.

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:

Pollutants

The composition of wastewater varies widely. This is a partial list of pollutants that may be contained in wastewater:

Chemical or physical pollutants

Biological pollutants

If the wastewater contains human feces, as is the case for sewage, then it may also contain pathogens of one of the four types: [6] [7]

It can also contain non-pathogenic bacteria and animals such as insects, arthropods and small fish.

Quality indicators

Since all natural waterways contain bacteria and nutrients, almost any waste compounds introduced into such waterways will initiate biochemical reactions such as detailed above. Those biochemical reactions create what is measured in the laboratory as the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). Such chemicals are also liable to be broken down using strong oxidizing agents and these chemical reactions create what is measured in the laboratory as the chemical oxygen demand (COD). Both the BOD and 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. The BOD test measures the oxygen demand of biodegradable pollutants whereas the COD test measures the oxygen demand of oxidizable pollutants.

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.

Treatment

At a global level, around 80% of wastewater produced is discharged into the environment untreated, causing widespread water pollution. [8] :2

There are numerous processes that can be used to clean up wastewaters depending on the type and extent of contamination. Wastewater can be treated in wastewater treatment plants which include physical, chemical and biological treatment processes. Municipal wastewater is treated in sewage treatment plants (which may also be referred to as wastewater treatment plants). Agricultural wastewater may be treated in agricultural wastewater treatment processes, whereas industrial wastewater is treated in industrial wastewater treatment processes.

For municipal wastewater the use of septic tanks and other On-Site Sewage Facilities (OSSF) is widespread in some rural areas, for example serving up to 20 percent of the homes in the U.S. [9]

One type of aerobic treatment system is the activated sludge process, based on the maintenance and recirculation of a complex biomass composed of micro-organisms able to absorb and adsorb the organic matter carried in the wastewater. Anaerobic wastewater treatment processes (UASB, EGSB) are also widely applied in the treatment of industrial wastewaters and biological sludge. Some wastewater may be highly treated and reused as reclaimed water. Constructed wetlands are also being used.

Disposal

Industrial wastewater effluent with neutralized pH from tailing runoff in Peru. Wastewater effluent.JPG
Industrial wastewater effluent with neutralized pH from tailing runoff in Peru.

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 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.) Some facilities such as oil and gas wells may be permitted to pump their wastewater underground through injection wells. Wastewater injection has been linked to induced seismicity. [10]

Reuse

Treated wastewater can be reused in industry (for example in cooling towers), in artificial recharge of aquifers, in agriculture and in the rehabilitation of natural ecosystems (for example in wetlands). In rarer cases it is also used to augment drinking water supplies. 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 bacteria and viruses. 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. One example of this scenario is in the domestic environment where toilets can be flushed using greywater from baths and showers with little or no treatment.

Irrigation with recycled wastewater can also serve to fertilize plants if it contains nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. In developing countries, agriculture is using untreated wastewater for irrigation - often in an unsafe manner. There can be significant health hazards related to using untreated wastewater in agriculture. The World Health Organization developed guidelines for safe use of wastewater in 2006. [11]

Legislation

Australia

As part of the Environmental Protection Act 1994, the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 2009 is responsible for the water management of Queensland, Australia. [12]

Nigeria

In Nigeria, the Water Resources Act of 1993 is the law responsible for all kinds of water management.

Philippines

In the Philippines, Republic Act 9275, otherwise known as the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, [13] is the governing law on wastewater management. It states that it is the country's policy to protect, preserve and revive the quality of its fresh, brackish and marine waters, for which wastewater management plays a particular role. [13]

United States

The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution in surface waters. [14] It is implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with states, territories, and tribes [15] . Groundwater protection provisions are included in the Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Superfund act.

See also

Related Research Articles

Environmental engineering is a professional engineering discipline that takes from broad scientific topics like chemistry, biology, ecology, geology, hydraulics, hydrology, microbiology, and mathematics to create solutions that will protect and also improves the health of living organisms and improve the quality of the environment. Environmental engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Greywater A type of wastewater generated in households without toilet wastewater

Greywater or sullage is all wastewater generated in households or office buildings from streams without fecal contamination, i.e. all streams except for the wastewater from toilets. Sources of greywater include, sinks, showers, baths, clothes washing machines or dish washers. As greywater contains fewer pathogens than domestic wastewater, it is generally safer to handle and easier to treat and reuse onsite for toilet flushing, landscape or crop irrigation, and other non-potable uses.

Water pollution Contamination of water bodies

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.

Wastewater treatment Converting wastewater into an effluent for return to the water cycle

Wastewater treatment is a process used to remove contaminants from wastewater or sewage and convert it into an effluent that can be returned to the water cycle with minimum impact on the environment, or directly reused. The latter is called water reclamation because treated wastewater can be used for other purposes. The treatment process takes place in a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), often referred to as a Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) or a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). Pollutants in municipal wastewater are removed or broken down.

Composting toilet A type of toilet that treats human excreta by a biological process called composting

A composting toilet is a type of dry toilet that treats human excreta by a biological process called composting. This process leads to the decomposition of organic matter and turns human excreta into compost-like material but does not destroy all pathogens. Composting is carried out by microorganisms under controlled aerobic conditions. Most composting toilets use no water for flushing and are therefore called "dry toilets".

Agricultural wastewater treatment Farm management agenda for controlling pollution from surface runoff in agriculture

Agricultural wastewater treatment is a farm management agenda for controlling pollution from surface runoff that may be contaminated by chemicals in fertiliser, pesticides, animal slurry, crop residues or irrigation water.

Effluent outflowing of water or gas from a natural body of water, or from a human-made structure

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.

Ecological sanitation An approach to sanitation provision which aims to safely reuse excreta in agriculture

Ecological sanitation, commonly abbreviated as ecosan, is an approach to sanitation provision which aims to safely reuse excreta in agriculture. It desires to "close the loop" mainly for the nutrients and organic matter between sanitation and agriculture. One of the aims is to minimise the use of non-renewable resources. When properly designed and operated, ecosan systems provide a hygienically safe system to convert human excreta into nutrients to be returned to the soil, and water to be returned to the land.

Secondary treatment A treatment process for wastewater or sewage

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.

Best management practice for water pollution Water pollution term

Best management practices (BMPs) is a term used in the United States and Canada to describe a type of water pollution control. Historically the term has referred to auxiliary pollution controls in the fields of industrial wastewater control and municipal sewage control, while in stormwater management and wetland management, BMPs may refer to a principal control or treatment technique as well.

Sewage treatment Process of removing contaminants from municipal wastewater

Sewage treatment is the process of removing contaminants from municipal wastewater, containing mainly household sewage plus some 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.

Sewage Wastewater that is produced by a community of people

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.

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.

Urine-diverting dry toilet Dry toilet with separate collection of feces and urine without any flush water

A urine-diverting dry toilet (UDDT) is a type of dry toilet with urine diversion that can be used to provide safe, affordable sanitation in a variety of contexts worldwide. The separate collection of feces and urine without any flush water has many advantages, such as odor-free operation and pathogen reduction by drying. While dried feces and urine harvested from UDDTs can be and routinely are used in agriculture, many UDDTs installations do not apply any sort of recovery scheme. The UDDT is an example of a technology that can be used to achieve a sustainable sanitation system. This dry excreta management system is an alternative to pit latrines and flush toilets, especially where water is scarce, a connection to a sewer system and centralized wastewater treatment plant is not feasible or desired, fertilizer and soil conditioner are needed for agriculture, or groundwater pollution should be minimized.

Reuse of human waste Safe, beneficial use of human waste

Reuse of human waste refers to the safe, beneficial use of animal or human waste, i.e. feces and urine. Such beneficial use involves mainly the nutrient, organic matter and energy contained in human waste, rather than the water content. Reuse of human waste can involve using it as a soil conditioner or fertilizer in agriculture, gardening, aquaculture, or horticultural activities. Human waste can also be used as a fuel source or as a building material.

Fecal sludge management Collection, transport, and treatment of fecal sludge from onsite sanitation systems

Fecal sludge management (FSM) is the collection, transport, and treatment of fecal sludge from pit latrines, septic tanks or other onsite sanitation systems. Fecal sludge is a mixture of human excreta, water and solid wastes that are disposed of in pits, tanks or vaults of onsite sanitation systems. Fecal sludge that is removed from septic tanks is called septage.

Water reuse in California

As a heavily populated state in the drought-prone arid west, water reuse in California—the use of reclaimed water for beneficial use—has developed as an integral part of water in California's story enabling both the economy and population to grow. Reclaimed water is treated wastewater that comes from homes and businesses, such as sink water, shower water, and even toilet water; this includes everything dumped down these wastewater drains from laundry soap to bleach to oil to human waste. Wastewater can divided into greywater and blackwater, with the first being defined as water that had been used for laundry, bathing, sink washing, and dishwaters. Blackwater, on the other hand, is defined as sewage that includes feces from toilets. Due to the low amounts of physical pollutants in greywater, most of its contaminants are dissolved organic matter, which can be physically filtered and cleaned through various membranes, as well as through biological treatment methods.

References

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