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What is Wastewater?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Wastewater is a term applied to any type of water that has been utilized in some capacity that negatively impacts the quality of the water. Common examples of wastewater include water that is discharged from households, office and retail buildings, and manufacturing plants. Wastewater may also refer to any water that is utilized in an agricultural facility and is no longer considered fit for human consumption.

The most common example of wastewater is liquid sewage. Discharged from homes and businesses alike, sewage usually contains a mixture of human waste, food remnants, water used in washing machines, and any other items that may have found their way into the sewage system. Many municipalities operate wastewater treatment plants that help to purify the sewage and recycle the water for other uses, such as watering lawns. The plant may employ many different devices to recycle the wastewater, including filters and chemical treatments.

Wastewater can also refer to groundwater that is contaminated due to a leaking septic tank or agents such as insecticide, petroleum products, blood, or cleaning liquids. Often, contaminated water can also be ran through the municipal filtration system and be prepared for use once again. However, the nature of the contaminants may require additional measures before the water is suitable for use once more.

Along with the use of chemicals to treat wastewater, the use of environmentally friendly methods are sometimes employed. Reed bed systems are one example. When utilized in wetlands that are either natural in origin or man made, this type of system can help to remove contaminants like soap and similar agents with relative ease, allowing the water to be reclaimed. However, many forms of wastewater today require heavy chemical treatments in order to remove harmful agents from the water and make it safe for further use.

In some homes, people sometimes take steps to recycle wastewater themselves. Water used for bathing may be collected and utilized for watering flower or vegetable gardens. The same is true with water used in the preparation of food. Any liquid used to boil pasta, for example, may be recycled as water for plants rather than dumping the used water into the sink.

Maintaining a fully functional water filtration plant is priority in most municipalities. Filtering and cleansing the water helps to minimize the chances for an outbreak of health issues related to infections and exposure to contaminants and essentially makes it possible for people to live in urbanized areas and still enjoy safe drinking water.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By cloudel — On May 23, 2012

@Perdido – Dogs have a strange fascination with wastewater. Mine like to lick the sewage water, which is even more gross than your laundry water.

They must have stomachs of steel, because they've never gotten sick from it. I wish there were some way to make the sewage stay underground, but I rent my home, and the landlord has the pipe system set up so that the sewage drains into the pasture next to my house. My dogs go out there a lot, and it is hard to keep them away from it.

The stench from this wastewater sludge is a combination of dirty lake water and feces. There is an almost fishy odor to it like there is in a big lake near my home. I hope this doesn't mean that the lake is polluted with sewage!

By Perdido — On May 22, 2012

Domestic wastewater can look downright nasty. Even the kind that doesn't contain sewage takes on a strange color and a murky appearance that makes me afraid to touch it.

The water that drains out of the washing machine goes through a pipe and into my back yard. There is a ditch full of this gray water, and it looks like a poisonous substance.

It has swirls and clouds in it. I have caught my dogs drinking it before, and I tried to shoo them away from it. Either they didn't get enough of it to harm them, or it really isn't toxic, because they were fine.

By OeKc05 — On May 22, 2012

This article has inspired me to participate in wastewater recycling. I have a large flower garden that need to be watered at least twice a week, and I never thought about reusing the water inside my house for this. I probably waste a lot of water by throwing it out and using fresh water from the garden hose on my plants.

I boil pasta once or twice a week, and that would give me a couple of pots full of water. Also, I fill the bathtub about halfway full with water whenever I shave my legs, and I could totally be bailing this out with a bucket and watering my flowers with it instead of letting it seep down the drain and out into the yard.

By anon146749 — On Jan 27, 2011

very nice but problems faced due to improper management of waste must be included.

By anon51663 — On Nov 08, 2009

very nice article on the topic waste water.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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