What You Need to Know About Clean Water

Whether it’s keeping fats, oils, and grease out of drains, supporting upgrades to local wastewater facilities, putting trash in the trash can instead of the toilet, or even picking up after your pet, everyone can play an important part in protecting the world’s water resources. 

These Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection.

Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more. 

Biosolids Reuse

What Are Biosolids?

Biosolids are a safe and beneficial resource composed of essential plant nutrient and organic matter that is recovered from the treatment of domestic sewage in a wastewater treatment facility. Biosolids can be reused and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and to stimulate plant growth. In fact, farmers and gardeners have been reusing biosolids for ages, and they are also used to fertilize gardens and parks, reclaim mining and forestry sites or even generate electricity when used as fuel. Biosolids are carefully monitored and must be used in accordance with regulatory requirements.

Why Is Reuse Important?

Given the strains of population growth and higher costs, finding ways to reuse or recycle limited resources is critical to a sustainable environment. Communities across North America and around the world conserve natural resources by recycling everything from glass and plastics to paper and metal, and their wastewater facilities reclaim safe, nutrient-rich organic material from the millions of liters of wastewater they treat each year. This reclamation process, which cleans the water and protects public health, results in the production of biosolids.

Are There Standards For Quality?

In the United States, all biosolids reuse programs must meet strict quality criteria and regulations set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Standards were based on EPA’s rigorous review of decades of long-term scientific studies regarding the safety and effectiveness of biosolids reuse. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also encourage the beneficial use of biosolids.

Pretreatment regulations also require that industrial plants treat or remove any contaminants from their wastewater in accordance to these requirements before it is discharged to municipal wastewater plants, where regular testing ensures high quality biosolids. And specifically mandated treatments minimize any potential odor associated with biosolids.

What Are Results of Biosolids Reuse?

  • Higher Yields: In farming, biosolids ruse has been shown to produce significant improvement in crop growth and yield.
  • Lower Costs: Biosolids reuse can be a cost-efficient complement to chemical fertilizers that contain inorganic chemicals with biosolids.
  • Greater Savings: Increased biosolids reuse enables local governments to market biosolids products and helps to offset the costs of ensuring clean water quality to their citizens.
  • A Cleaner Environment:  Biosolids reuse programs can save landfill space, transform community waste into valuable resources, and support a cleaner, more sustainable environment.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Drug-Free Drains

Every day the average adult uses nine personal care products that contain 126 unique compounds that could end up in our water. In addition to traces of products like shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, and cosmetics, minute amounts of prescription and over-the-counter drugs also make their way into water. They should be limited or prevented from entering our environment.

Due to our increased use of these products and greater analytical sensitivity, very tiny amounts of compounds and drugs can be detected in conventional treatment plant outflow and end up in creeks, streams, and rivers. While there is no evidence these traces pose a risk to human health, scientists can sometimes find interference with aquatic organisms, and studies continue. Meanwhile, it's important to control what we put into water, and everyone’s help is important. 

In addition to following product recommendations for use and disposal and decreasing use when possible, you can help keep water clean by simply not flushing unused medication down the toilet! Controlling what goes down the drain is the easiest and most effective way to protect the environment, and you can start today!

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Ever Wonder Where It Goes?

Clean water is critical for sustaining life and health, yet people often take for granted the flow of water in and out of their homes. Where does it go after we flush the toilet or empty the sink, and how does it safely find its way back into the environment?

Wastewater from homes, businesses, industries, and institutions drains into a community’s sanitary sewer system, an underground network of pipes that leads to the wastewater treatment plant. At the plant, used water is cleaned and returned to the environment to be used over and over again. Treatment is complex and essential to the protection of our water resources. There are no holidays for wastewater treatment — in fact most plants operate 24/7 to meet clean water standards on a continuous basis.

Shop WEF to see the Brochure and Bill Stuffer on this topic.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Fat-Free Sewers

Keep Fats, Oils and Greases Out of the Sewer!

When it’s washed down the sink, grease from meat fats, lard, oil, shortening, butter, margarine, food scraps, baked goods, sauces and dairy products sticks to the insides of sewer pipes. Over time it can build up and block an entire pipe on your property or in the street. Moreover home garbage disposals do not keep grease out of the plumbing system. And hot water and products such as detergents that claim to dissolve grease only pass it down the line and cause problems elsewhere. Results can include raw sewage overflowing in your home, the house next door, parks, yards or streets, and potential contact with disease-causing organisms. Sewage overflows resulting from grease in the system can also mean expensive clean-up costs for the involved home or business owners and well as increased operation and maintenance costs for local sewer departments, which leads to higher sewer bills for customers.

You can help prevent sewer overflows by following a few simple suggestions:

  • Never pour grease down sink drains or into toilets.
  • Scrape grease and food scraps into a can or the trash for disposal or recycling (where available).
  • Put baskets or strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids, and then empty them into the trash.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Groundwater Protection

What Is Groundwater?

Groundwater is water that fills cracks and open spaces in rocks and soils that lie beneath the surface of the earth.  Water seeps into the ground from many sources including rainfall and streams.  
Groundwater that is consumed can be replenished in a matter of days or it may take many years to recharge.  About 99% of the easily available freshwater worldwide is groundwater.  Worldwide about a third of the people use groundwater for drinking water and in the United States nearly half use groundwater as their drinking water source. In rural areas of the United States over 97% get their drinking water from groundwater, and it is also used for household needs, by industries, in commerce, or to irrigate crops.

Why Protect Groundwater?

Groundwater should be protected because it is a major source of the water required to sustain life.  As human populations have grown, groundwater usage has increased so over time the groundwater available for use by humans and wildlife has decreased.    Groundwater is contaminated by pollutants that seep in from poorly constructed landfills, septic tank systems, industries, roadways, livestock areas, agricultural lands, household chemicals and many other sources. Communities whose groundwater has become unavailable or unreliable due to over usage or contamination have spent millions of dollars to remedy the problem.  Remedies are costly and include additional treatment to cleanse the contaminated water, or acquiring water from distant locations.  Groundwater rehabilitation can double or triple the cost of the water, and these costs will be passed on to the consumer. It is far better to prevent contamination or conserve usage in the first place.

What Can Consumers Do?

Groundwater protection is everyone’s responsibility, and there are many ways it can be protected.  Both the groundwater quality and its availability must be protected. 

The amount of groundwater used can reduced by utilizing many water saving techniques. Consumers can: 

  • Install low flow faucets, toilets and showerheads
  • Direct rainwater to locations where it can seep into the ground (lawns and raingarden depressions) to replenish groundwater supplies
  • Plant shrubs and plants that need less water to thrive and use efficient home irrigation systems
  • Purchase water-saving appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines that use less water
  • Minimize running water for daily activities such as brushing teeth, washing dishes or cars
  • Purchase products from companies that strive to reuse or reduce water during manufacturing
  • Use less water intensive farming irrigation methods such as drip irrigation systems that minimize water usage and evaporation to the air. 
  • Work with local, state, and federal agencies and organizations to protect critical groundwater resource areas

Groundwater contamination can be minimized using the following practices.

  • Test wells regularly for contaminants as they are a direct conduit to the groundwater.  Many local environmental groups and agencies provide testing services, and commercial water testing laboratories may be an option as well.
  • Plug abandoned wells using qualified water well contractors who fill them with appropriate cementing agents. Abandoned wells should never be used for waste disposal (Federal Law prohibits injecting into wells without permits).
  • Pump septic systems out every one to three years and do not flush the system with grease, solvents, paint thinners, non-biodegradable products or other hazardous materials. When installing a new septic system, soil conditions must be suitable and licensed installers should be used. Septic discharges can be significant sources of groundwater pollution.
  • Participate in household hazardous waste disposal, recycling, or take-back programs (such as drug take-backs) when available. For example, oil can be recycled through these programs.
  • Apply the minimum amount or fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides needed for lawn care. Avoid spillage into rivers, streams canals or other water bodies.
  • Remove or replace any leaking underground storage tanks with an above-ground tank or an underground storage tank with leak detection and a liner for secondary containment (Federal law requires this).
  • Control manure storage and distribution on farms so that runoff from these areas is minimized. 
  • Over-applying chemicals on farms to crops causes excess chemicals to seep into the ground.  Use pesticides and herbicides that are less toxic or non-toxic as they can leach into the groundwater.  Avoid using these compounds near wells.
  • Dumping of wastes, oils, paints or other toxic compounds onto the ground or into sewers or wells should never be done.

Work with local, state, and/or federal agencies and organizations on existing sites where the soil has been contaminated by past practices to have them cleaned up.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Disposing of Household Waste

Sustainability Starts at Your Sink!

Did you know the average household contains between three and 10 gallons of materials that are hazardous to human health or to the environment? There are obvious things, such as paint thinner, car batteries, and cleaners, but beyond clearly hazardous materials, substances such as polishes, greases, and even prescription medicines and personal care products can affect the environment if disposed of improperly. Every time someone dumps a can of paint thinner down the sink, flushes medicine down the toilet or throws an old car batter out with the trash, they can impact our water quality — and it doesn’t have to happen. You can prevent pollution before it starts through proper disposal, educated product choices, and desire to contribute to sustainability or the continued health of our planet.

You can do your part for a sustainable planet and manage household waste. First reduce the amount you need. Some suggestions to help include:

  • Before you buy a product, make sure it will do what you want—you are responsible for proper disposal.
  • Don’t buy more than you need,
  • Read and follow directions on how to use a product and how to dispose of the container.
  • Use safer or environmentally friendlier substitutes when available.

Even if you reduce your wastes, there is still the question of what to do with what’s left over. This household waste chart shows effective ways to dispose of specific household waste and contribute to a sustainable clean environment.

Sop WEF to view the bill stuffer and brochure on this topic.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

It's a Toilet, Not a Trash Can!

Toilets are only meant for one activity, and you know what we’re talking about! When the wrong thing is flushed, results can include costly backups on your own property or problems at your local wastewater treatment plant. That’s why it’s so important to treat toilets properly and flush only your personal contributions to the local wastewater treatment plant.

Don’t flush any of the following items:

  • Baby wipes and diapers
  • Rages and towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Syringes
  • Candy and other food wrappers
  • Clothing labels
  • Cleaning sponges
  • Toys
  • Plastic items of any description
  • Aquarium gravel or kitty litter
  • Rubber items such as latex gloves
  • Cigarette butts
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Hair
  • Underwear
  • Disposable toilet brushes

Shop WEF to view the English bill stuffer or Bilingual bill stuffer on this topic.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Nonpoint Source Pollution

What is Nonpoint Source Pollution?

Nonpoint source pollution is caused by various land use practices, air deposition, and many of our daily activities. This pollution can close beaches, endanger wildlife, and contaminate drinking water resources.  Unlike specific point sources such as discharge pipes, nonpoint source pollution comes from many different spots and it's often difficult to control.

What Are the Pollutants?

Nonpoint source pollutants include nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and septic tank systems, sediments from construction and timber harvest sites, pesticides from agricultural lands, salts from winter road treatment, and trace metals and toxic chemicals from inadequately protected landfills.

How Can Consumers Help?

Pollution prevention is essential to reducing nonpoint source pollution. Examples of pollution prevention include detention ponds for capturing sediments in stormwater runoff, and buffer strips of vegetation to separate farmed or urban lands from nearby waters. Citizens can reduce nonpoint source pollution if they:

  • Reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides on lawns and gardens,
  • Seed or mulch areas where soil can wash away.
  • Never dispose of used engine oils, paint/paint thinners, and pesticides in sewers, septic tanks, storm drains or directly onto land. Dispose of them at household hazardous waste disposal locations.
  • Take public transportation, ride in carpools, and limit driving when possible to reduce air emissions.  Properly maintain cars to eliminate oil and gasoline leaks.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Private Sewer Systems Defects and Overflows

Most sanitary sewer systems are constructed as a network of manholes and pipes that flow from each building that generates sewage to a wastewater treatment plant. Private services, also called laterals, are pipes from the building to the sewer main. In some areas, the public system owns and maintains the “lower lateral” from the sewer main to the edge of the easement or right-of-way, and the private property owner owns and maintains the “upper lateral” the remainder of the way to the building. In other areas, the private property owner owns and maintains both the lower and upper laterals.

Finding and fixing sewer defects on private property sewer systems can prevent sewer overflows and backups that can cause health hazards, inhibit economic growth, and result in long-term environmental damage.

How Do Sewer System Defects Cause Overflows?

Private sanitary sewer systems, the earliest of which were built in the mid 1800s, carry domestic wastewater away from private properties separately from stormwater. These systems have deteriorated over the years, are typically not maintained or replaced due to funding, and their ability to transport sanitary wastewater has been compromised due to population growth. As a result, these systems can experience separate sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) both on public and private property.

SSOs are generally caused by infiltration that occurs when clean water such as groundwater enters the sanitary sewer through defects in the system or inflow from stormwater that enters the system through defects and illegal connections. SSOs can also be caused by inadequate pipe sizes when population growth exceeds the original design conditions. Dry weather SSOs can be caused by maintenance problems when debris, roots, or fats, oils, and grease block normal flow in the pipes.

What Are the Results of Defective Systems?

The inability of sewer systems to transport flows caused by defects can result in inadequate service to customers, sewer backups into buildings, and sanitary sewers overflowing into waterways. Sewer overflows, whether into private residences and buildings, into parks and streets, or into waterways, pose health hazards and may violate the Federal Clean Water Act. If owners and communities ignore the deterioration of the sanitary sewer systems, the systems will continue to deteriorate, and the cost of repair will increase. Not addressing these sewer system defects may force cause economic development issues and long-term damage to the environment.

What Are Private System Defects?

Common defects on private systems include:
• Missing cleanout caps;
• Broken cleanouts and cleanout caps;
• Broken service lines;
• Sump pump flows discharged to sanitary sewers; and
• Stormwater flow from downspouts, area drains, basement drains, stairwell and window well drains.

How Can Defects Be Located and Fixed?

Private system defects are found using sanitary sewer evaluation survey (SSES) techniques such as smoke testing, dyed water flooding, internal television inspection (such as CCTV), or building inspections. If a property owner experiences consistent sewer backups it typically means that there are defects in their private system.

Eliminating private service defects can be as simple as replacing a cleanout cap. Other defect repairs may require an entire service lateral to be rehabilitated or replaced and may require hiring a licensed plumber. Cost of repairs can range from $2,000 to $20,000.

What Are Some Typical Programs to Eliminate Private Service Defects?

Many agencies have developed programs to eliminate private service defects. Programs include locating the defects, educating the public, providing assistance for repair, repairing defects with either agency funds or property owner funds, and using ordinances to enforce the repair by the property owner.

This Public FAQ is based on a brochure formerly provided by the Water Environment Federation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cooperative Agreement Assistance I.D. No. CX824505.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Stop Sewer Backups, Disconnect Downspouts

Many older homes, especially in urban areas, have gutters with downspouts connected directly to the sanitary sewer. Rain water from the roofs drains directly into the sanitary sewer system through these connectors. Because sanitary sewer systems are not designed to convey this excess flow, these downspout connections allow water from rain storms to exceed the capacity of the sewer pipes. When there is too much water for the system, the excess has to go somewhere, so the water and any waste materials in the sewers overflow the system. These sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) end up in somebody’s basement, flows along streets, gutters or ditches, or enters nearby creeks or rivers.

Municipalities have a legal requirement to stop water from overflowing from the sewer system. Even if the water does not overflow the system, connected downspouts still result in the wastewater treatment plant treating extra water for which it was not designed – and the customers must pay for transporting and treating this excess water.

Why Disconnect A Downspout?

Sewage overflows are a potential threat to health and the environment and are costly. Overflows create problems related to:

  • Human health. Raw sewage contains microorganisms that can cause diseases such as hepatitis, giardiasis, and gastroenteritis.
  • Long-term environmental health. Raw sewage in streams and lakes can cause illnesses in fish, kill aquatic life, and make the water unusable for swimming, fishing, and as a drinking water source.
  • Homes. When there is a sewer backup into a house, the homeowner may have to pay the cost to clean up, repair damage, and replace ruined carpets and furniture. Basic homeowner’s insurance often does not cover this damage without an added clause or “rider”.
  • Utility rates. Utilities treat extra water and may have to increase treatment plant size. The utility may also have to pay fines when raw sewage is released to the environment. Higher costs mean higher rates for consumers.

What Can Customers Do?

Customers should check to see whether disconnecting their home’s downspouts can help solve the problem. Disconnection is usually a simple, relatively inexpensive process. The local sewer system authority or public works department should be able to tell whether downspouts are connected to the sanitary sewer, and if so, whether disconnection makes sense. They can also let others know why downspouts should be disconnected and how sewer overflows cost the entire community.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Too Cute to Pollute?

Looks, size, and diet don’t matter — pets can pollute if you don’t pick up after them. That’s because pet waste left on the ground eventually contaminates the watershed. Waste components like fecal bacteria and nutrients are washed into storm drains, streams, and other receive waters by irrigation, rain, melting snow, and flooding. They can also simply leach through the soil and into the ground water. Even waste from smaller pets can have an impact on the local water environment.

You Can Prevent Pet Pollution! A pet waste bag (biodegradable if possible) and environmental awareness are really all it takes. Never place pet waste in your compost pile or near water supplies or vegetable gardens, flush cat litter or bird seed down the toilet.

When walking your pet, just remember to:

  • Bring a bag or other means to pick up waste.
  • Always pick up.
  • Dispose of pet waste in trash can, pet waste receptacle, or according to local laws.
  • Always wash your hands!

Shop WEF to see the bill stuffer on this topic.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Wastewater Treatment

When Did Wastewater Treatment Begin?

Treatment of wastewater is a relatively modern practice. While sewers were common in ancient Rome to remove foul-smelling water, it was not until the 19th Century that large cities began to reduce the amount of pollutants in the  wastewater they were discharging to the environment. Since that time, the practice of wastewater  collection and treatment has undergone substantial engineering improvements, and many state and federal regulations have been enacted.

How Does Wastewater Treatment Work?

Most  homes, businesses, and institutions are connected to a sewer system that conveys their wastewater to a public wastewater treatment plant.  Sanitary sewer systems carry only domestic and industrial wastewater, while combined sewer systems also carry stormwater runoff.  At the plant, the wastewater is cleaned and returned to the environment to be used over and over again. 

Wastewater flows by gravity with occasional help from pumps until it reaches the treatment plant. What happens in a wastewater treatment plant is essentially the same as what occurs naturally in a lake or stream. The function of a wastewater treatment plant is to speed up the process by which water is cleaned naturally. Treatment plants are operated 24 hours a day by a treatment team that is committed to protecting public health and the environment.

How Is Wastewater Treated?

Wastewater is typically treated through a series of five major steps followed by processes to reuse or to dispose of the remaining products. This treatment requires an intricate balance of physical, biological, and chemical processes. They include:

  • Preliminary Treatment includes screening to remove large objects (such as sticks, rags, leaves, and trash) and the settling of grit (heavy, sandy, abrasive matter). The material is collected and discarded, and the remaining flow moves on to primary treatment.
  • Primary Treatment involves the reduction of the wastewater flow to remove easily settleable and floatable solids using primary tanks known as clarifiers. Solids removed from this process are often sent to the solids handling portion of the plant.
  • Secondary Treatment is designed to grow naturally occurring microorganisms to digest organic material, sometimes remove nutrients, and then to settle to the bottom of a secondary sedimentation basin. After secondary treatment, 85% to 90% of solids have been removed from the wastewater.
  • Tertiary (or Advanced) Treatment is used to improve the quality of the water even more, especially if the plant’s permit requires more stringent effluent limits. Usually this entails lower effluent solids and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus levels.
  • Disinfection destroys pathogenic organisms in the effluent before it is discharged into the receiving water body to help protect the public from exposure to pathogens. Alternatives for disinfection include chlorination followed by dechlorination, exposure to ultraviolet light, and the infusion of ozone.
  • Solids Handling involves the treatment of the solids removed from the water treatment processes for beneficial use or to be made acceptable for landfills.

What Happens to the Products of Wastewater Treatment?

The two main products of the wastewater treatment process are clean water and the collected solids that, after treatment, are known as biosolids. Some communities further treat clean water for recycling so it can be used in ways such as golf course and landscape irrigation, and even groundwater recharge programs. Biosolids can be reused in a variety of ways: applied as a fertilizer/soil conditioner (for agricultural, land reclamation, or horticultural use), burned to produce energy, or used as a component of other useful products.

What Can Consumers Do?

A community’s quality of life and economic vitality depend on wastewater systems that work. Consumers can make a difference by supporting initiatives to protect and improve the nation’s aging clean water infrastructure.  (Water Is Life link.) And they can learn how to dispose of household wastes properly, so that only human waste and water enter the sewer system. (Link to household waste chart.) For more detailed information on wastewater treatment, click Following the Flow: An Inside Look at Wastewater Treatment for more information.

This topic is also covered in brochures and bill stuffers that can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs, plant tours, and other public venues. For more information, Shop WEF.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

 

Water Reuse

What Is Reclaimed Water?

Reclaimed water is highly treated wastewater that can be used to supplement existing water supplies. Using reclaimed water for irrigation, water features, and in industry can be an environmentally efficient and cost-effective alternative to using drinking water.

How Is Reclaimed Water Used?

Agricultural irrigation is a common way to use reclaimed water. Reclaimed water is also used around the world to irrigate lawns and golf courses. Water reuse programs can supplement lakes and streams to improve wildlife habitats; creates artificial lakes for picnicking, fishing, and boating; and provide water for use in fountains at many commercial buildings and parks.

How Safe Is Reclaimed Water?

Reclaimed water undergoes a high level of treatment to remove bacteria and viruses from wastewater. Extensive testing is performed to assure water quality standards are met. In the United States, for example, reclaimed water has been used safely for more than four decades. Water reuse is a safe and environmentally responsible approach to conserving finite water resources.

Why Pay for More Treatment Than Necessary?

Communities pay the costs when streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater resources are tapped to provide drinking water in support of municipal, industrial, or agricultural use. This is because they are paying for a level of water purification needed only for drinking.

When reclaimed water is used where possible:

  • Drinking water sources are conserved;
  • Existing water treatment facilities last longer;
  • Construction of new water treatment facilities can be deferred; and
  • A reliable new source of non-potable water is established.
  • In addition, dollars saved through water reuse programs become available to address other community priorities.

What Can Consumers Do?

As new supplies of fresh water become scarcer and more expensive to develop, the value of water reuse programs continues to grow. Once the initial costs for capital facilities and distribution systems are met, the long-term results include substantial environmental and financial savings. Consumers can support water reuse programs in their communities when appropriate and contact their local wastewater treatment facilities for more information.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.

Watershed Protection

What Is a Watershed?

Watersheds are regions as small as a backyard or as big as any major river basin where all land drains to a particular body of water or common point. In a watershed, a creek that’s clean at one end could be polluted downstream by drainage from other waters. It’s important to understand how water uses and threats anywhere in a common geographical area, including surface water, groundwater, and wetlands, can damage an entire watershed.

What Is Watershed Management?

Watershed management is a holistic approach to address water quality issues throughout an entire watershed.  Through watershed management, the most serious issues can be addressed first, and limited resources can be tailored and allocated to match individual watershed requirements.

How Can Consumers Help?

Everyone shares a watershed, and each has its own unique set of water quality issues. In particular, consumers can:

  • Learn about water resources and uses in their own watershed
  • Talk to their elected officials about watershed management
  • Make sure area schools teach about watershed protection
  • Ensure that hazardous materials are disposed of properly
  • Reach out to other communities and cross political boundaries in the interest of watershed management.

About Public FAQs

Public FAQs offer information on topics ranging from wastewater treatment to water quality protection. Many of these water quality topics are also covered in WEF’s inexpensive series of brochures and bill stuffers, which can be purchased for distribution at environmental fairs and other public venues. Shop WEF to learn more.