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Where does the Wastewater from My Sink and Shower Go?

Have you ever stopped and wondered what happens to the wastewater from your sink, shower, and laundry after it goes down the drain? Every time you turn on the tap, you are using a valuable resource that must be treated before it can be safely returned to the environment.

This blog post explores the journey of the water from your sink and shower, how it’s treated, and what you can do to reduce your impact on our wastewater systems.

Understanding Australia's Wastewater System

In Australia, wastewater is thoroughly treated before it’s released into the environment. This process involves various steps, and a wastewater treatment plant is where the work happens. Here the wastewater is broken down to remove toxic chemicals and other pollutants.

The treatment processes that domestic wastewater undergoes before it’s released into the environment can vary a lot depending on where you are in Australia. Sometimes, wastewater will be treated using “activated sludge” technology. 

This technology uses microorganisms to break down pollutants and remove them from the water. Other systems which can be used to treat wastewater include having ponds or lakes store the wastewater until it can be treated further.

Once wastewater has been released into the environment, there are a number of things that can happen. It can flow into rivers or lakes, where it will be used for irrigation purposes or for generating electricity. It can also enter our oceans through storm drains and waterways. 

In densely populated areas, wastewater can sometimes reach our rivers and oceans untreated (known as “greywater”). Wastewater that enters our oceans through storm drains and waterways (known as “blackwater”) may contain harmful bacteria and chemicals that can impact marine life.

The environmental impact of wastewater disposal depends on many different factors, including how well a wastewater treatment plant is operated. This in turn determines how effectively the primary treatment removes contaminants.

Some common consequences of poorly operated wastewater treatment plants include heavy metal contamination of waterways, increased levels of toxic gas emissions, increases in greenhouse gas emissions due to an increase in methane production, and increases in waterborne diseases due to contact with raw sewage (human waste).

Maintaining a healthy water system in your home or business requires regular maintenance – something that many people often overlook until something goes wrong! Fit-for-purpose quality water is something many Australians take for granted, and water conservation is often a second thought.

An easy way to keep your water usage sustainable while maintaining proper sanitation is to install rainwater tanks that capture runoff from your roof – instead of using gutters or downpipes for the water to be dispersed. Another way you can save water without compromising sanitation is by using low-flow shower heads or taps.

There is also a comprehensive Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code (2019) that plumbing systems must adhere to ensure wastewater flows efficiently and correctly for treatment.

How Is Waste Water Treated?

There are various ways wastewater is treated before being released into waterways or the ocean and to ensure it’s safe for human use. Depending on the area, wastewater may be treated through various processes, including physical, chemical, and biological treatment. Below, is an outline of the main premise behind each type of wastewater treatment.

1. Physical Treatment

Physical treatment involves removing large objects, such as debris and waste, from the water using filters or screens. This process is usually used for industrial wastewater that’s contaminated with industrial or suspended solids.

2. Chemical Treatment

Chemical treatment involves adding chemicals to the water to break down pollutants or contaminants. This process is usually used for water that is contaminated with hazardous materials like oil and petrol.

3. Biological Treatment

Biological treatment involves using microorganisms (such as bacteria) to break down pollutants or contaminants. This process is usually used for water that is contaminated with sewage or agricultural runoff.

Afterward, treated wastewater may be released into waterways or the ocean through either open systems (such as wetlands) or closed systems (such as underground aquifers). In open systems, treated wastewater often flows directly into waterways, while in closed systems, it may be stored before being released back into waterways.

Lastly, treated wastewater may also be reused for irrigation purposes if it meets specific safety standards. All of these methods are monitored to ensure that treated water meets regulatory requirements and remains safe for human use.

Understanding the Sewage Treatment Process

Every day, wastewater from your home is treated in a sewage treatment plant. This process helps to reduce the amount of pollution that is released into our environment, and it’s something that you can help to improve by taking some simple steps at home.

By understanding the steps and processes that occur within sewage treatment plants, you can be better equipped to keep your home water system healthy and free from pollution.

The first step in the sewage treatment process is sedimentation. This involves using screens or other devices to trap small particles such as dirt, hair, and paper from the wastewater. Once the sediment has been collected, it’s ready for further treatment.

Next, filtration takes place. Filters are used to remove large particles from the wastewater while leaving smaller particles, such as bacteria and viruses, intact. This process is important because it allows us to protect our water supply from harmful contaminants.

Disinfection happens next, and this is where harmful microorganisms are killed by chemicals or radiation. Disinfectants help to protect us both physically (by killing germs) and environmentally (by reducing the amount of waste that needs to be handled).

Finally, after all of these treatments have taken place, water is ready for discharge into our environment or onto landfills. However, before releasing into the environment, it must be tested for safety purposes by a certified laboratory. If all tests come back normal, then the treated water can be released without any further restrictions.

What Can I Do to Help Reduce My Impact on the Wastewater System?

Water is essential for life, and it’s important to use it wisely. Remember, too, that wastewater from our homes also has a significant impact on the environment. So how is it possible to reduce your environmental impact when it comes to water usage?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand where your wastewater goes. After leaving your home, wastewater goes through various processes as described above before being returned to the environment. Knowing and considering these processes can help you make more informed decisions about water use in your home.

While conservation is always the best option when it comes to using water resources, there are many different ways you can conserve water in your home quite simply.

For example, you can reduce the amount of water used for watering plants by using low-flow irrigation systems instead of traditional sprinklers. You can install a low-flow shower head or faucet to save even more water during showers or when brushing your teeth.

Finally, it’s important we think about how our actions as citizens affect the quality of our water resources overall. Many people don’t realise that everyday actions – like flushing medications down the toilet – contribute to water pollution and, in turn, will reduce drinking water quality for others.

By becoming aware of these issues and taking small steps to change our habits, we can all make a positive impact on our water quality.

Eco Earth Plumbing can ensure your wastewater is heading to the right place!

Knowing how wastewater is treated and being mindful of our own contributions to the wastewater system is the first step to us all working together to reduce our environmental impact.

Other practical steps we can take include disposing of solid waste responsibly, conserving water whenever possible, and ensuring our home plumbing systems are operating safely and efficiently within The Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code. Eco Earth Plumbing is always on hand to help with all your plumbing needs.

We understand the importance of efficient and responsible plumbing, so whether you want a new water tank installed or need to have your existing sewerage system checked over, Eco Earth Plumbing can make sure it runs smoothly. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for more information about our Sunshine Coast plumbing services!