October 29


Where Does Toilet Waste & Water Go?

By Robin Hatch

October 29, 2021

Toilet waste and other forms of wastewater are much more interesting than what first meets the eye. Many people believe once you dispose of water or waste through a household appliance, it simply disappears out of existence.

However, it’s way more complex and beneficial than you may think. So, where do toilet waste and other forms of wastewater go?

When wastewater is deposited in a sink, toilet, or anything else connected to a sewage system, it goes through a process. The start of the process is the depositing stage. Afterward, this waste is transported through a sewage system to a wastewater facility.

Here, the water goes through a series of treatments (primary, secondary, and tertiary) and is reused for consumption, irrigation, and other things.

Although the wastewater journey can seem relatively gross and disturbing, there’s sound reasoning behind it. Around 180 gallons of sewage are produced each week by a US family. This is a vast amount, and instead of wasting it away, it’s rehabilitated into something useful. The process itself is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and they’ve done a remarkable job of this.  

Where Does Wastewater Go?

The initial big jump in reusing wastewater for specific uses started back in the 1920s in California. Its primary goals were the following:

  • Protect both the natural environment and human health from the potential harms related to wastewater 
  • Natural resources and energy conservation
  • Reducing the number of complete waste humans generate by recycling used water into something useful
  • Ensuring that all waste management is controlled and follows strict guidelines to guarantee the above.

To gain a better insight into wastewater’s overall journey, you’ll want to become knowledgeable in this next section. Here we break down wastewater processes, from your home to waste management facilities.

Inside Your Home

As you can imagine, wastewater produced in your household is generated inside your home. Before making it to the wastewater facility, where it goes through various procedures to be reused, it must go through a plumbing system. To visualize this better, see the below:

The flush – Where it all begins, the flush or drain. The wastewater has already been generated during this stage, and now it’s time to deposit it. As we’re all aware, there are two primary ways of achieving this within a household: flushing the toilet or simply putting it down the drain. This depends on the type of waste, but you get the idea.

Toilet’s trap – Now, a traditional sink will deposit the wastewater directly into the drainage. However, with a toilet, it’ll enter the toilet’s trap. The trap is the pipe before your waste enters a drainage system. Inside this is a combination of both solid waste and flushed water. The trap includes both of these elements to control the smell.

Drainage – Your wastewater will enter a drainage system upon exiting the trap or filtering through the internal sink pipes. This system primarily connects your property up with the main sewerage line.

Sewage mains – After the drainage system transports wastewater away from your house and into the main sewage pipeline to which the entire neighborhood is connected. When the wastewater reaches this stage, it’s transported to a local wastewater facility, making it almost ready for treatment and reusing.

Inside your home, your wastewater goes through several processes until it reaches the wastewater facility. To better understand what happens when your waste gets to this location, read the below.

Outside Your Home

After the above processes, your wastewater will eventually arrive at a facility. Here, wastewater can go through three different primary, secondary, and tertiary treatments. Below is a brief overview of each of them:

Wastewater is temporarily held in large settling tanks during this type of treatment. When this occurs, the heavier solids sink to the bottom of the container, while lighter solids become present on the surface.

After settling, all the remaining materials are held back while the excess water is filtered through to the secondary process. The solids inside the container are separately transported to special sludge treatment facilities.

When sludge (aka poo) is sent to these facilities, it’s created into something much more helpful to our environment. It can be developed into renewable energy, fertilizer for crops, and much more during this stage.

The excess water from the primary stage is then filtered further at the secondary treatment. This period is much more rigorous than the first step, and it’s specially designed to degrade the biological content through aerobic biological processes.

All wastewater must go through this step because it makes the wastewater safer for the environment.

The process itself is accomplished in one of three different ways, including:

  • Biofiltration – uses sand, trickling, or contact filters to guarantee that microscopic sediments are entirely removed from the wastewater.
  • Aeration – is a much more prolonged process (around 30 hours). It increases the oxygen saturation of the wastewater, which decomposes any remains located in the wastewater.
  • Oxidation ponds – typically occur in warmer climates. It utilizes natural water sources (like lagoons) and allows the wastewater to pass through. As a result, the wastewater begins to clear itself and is then collected two or three weeks later.

Lastly, the wastewater is transported to the tertiary treatment after the secondary process. This is the last and final step, yet the most crucial.

They use municipalities that remove all harmful pathogens in the wastewater throughout this treatment. After this successful process, the water is now rated a domestic and industrial standard.

Therefore, people can use it for their lawns, to consume, and practically anything else you can imagine.

Without a doubt, the whole process from our toilets or sinks to a treatment facility is fascinating but also disturbing. Although it’s completely safe, the water we drink today (unless it’s bottled) typically is rejuvenated wastewater.

It does sound ridiculously unsettling. However, it’s perfect for our environment, and ever since this has been implemented worldwide, the significant benefits our planet has received are astronomical.

Next Steps

Learn more about toilets below.

How Does a Toilet Flush Work? Anatomy Of a Toilet

The above details what happens to your wastewater when flushed or deposited down a drain. The wastewater process is much more complex than everyone could ever imagine than what meets the daily eye.

However, this was developed to improve our sustainability and decrease the effects of water usage on our environment.

We’ve compiled a complete list of frequently asked bathroom questions for new and experienced homeowners.

Our experts answer these questions to help you through DIY projects and home repairs.

Robin Hatch

About the author

For over a decade, Robin has been a real estate agent, interior design specialist, and mother. Through her trials and tribulations, she wanted to create the perfect website to help you save money and make your home look beautiful.

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