some of them can be problems, in general if you are
going to use household waste water for the gardens it
is a good idea to switch to products which can be
biodegraded (often via what is called a reed bed) in
some manner before it gets to the gardens. some things
are toxic above small amounts so should not be used.
the idea was that the soil should filter and clean the
remaining water coming from it, but they are discovering
that the soil does not clean it as much as expected so
effluent plumes are getting into the rivers and lakes.
in the end mixing human waste with water makes the
problem much worse than needed because then the human
waste has to be taken back out of the water anyways.
why not just keep it from the water to begin with? so
until people realize that the initial design is horribly
flawed we'll be stuck with this rotten and pollution
encouraging mess instead of doing things in a much
with cheap energy much becomes possible, but if you
design a smarter system that doesn't pollute water to
begin with you can avoid a lot of problems (and expenses).
Prince Charles has a reed bed sewage treatment set up installed at his
BTW, for those people who enjoy gardening books, the book on his garden
is called "The garden at Highgrove". This is not a cheap book and I
debated long and hard with myself as to whether I should bother to pay
the money for a book on the garden of a rich royal whose lifestyle is
nothing like mine or even in the same country or in the same gardneing
conditions. I'm so glad that I did eventually buy it as it's real eye
candy and his attitude to his garden resonates with me. He even ignored
advice given to him by that guru Sir Roy Strong because it didn't fit
into what he wanted to do.
I keep pulling it off the shelves when I need a bit of inspiration.
Wonderful book, even more wonderful garden (this is about another book
by him but there are good pics here of his garden):
I could almost smell the flowers in those marvelous pictures. Again,
I don't think he will ever be king. Sadly. I've always been a Charles
fan even when he was being pilloried by the press due to the expert
manipulations of Dianna. He always seems to be very thoughtful and to
reach conclusions which I've never thought to be at all controversial.
His mother will be a very hard act to follow given how well she has done
since the early 1950s. I suspect William will see the end of the
Monarchy. He is a very different kettle of fish. Despite the nice
exterior, I'm not convinced that he will be a good King.
Are there detergents that really work and don't louse up
the water? Borax is obviously out of the question, bleaches
will have to be h2o2 based, but I think they're available.
Nutrients, or pathogens?
Composting toilets are a good option in low-density
environments, but would they work in higher density places,
say 10ksf lots, 3bd/2ba houses? What about apartments?
Most of the developed world uses single-stream sewage collection
and already makes at least a token effort to clean up the wastewater.
With a little more effort and energy the water could be cleaned up
enough to go back in the supply. From what I gather, solar energy
in Germany has fallen to zero cost for portions of the day. The
same is apt to happen here if wind and solar investments continue.
Reverse osmosis plants can stop and start relatively quickly, that
seems like a good use for the excess energy.
Here's a link that some might find interesting on the subject of
reverse osmosis and its efficiency:
The article focuses on seawater desalination but the discussion
makes it very clear that domestic wastewater is much more efficient
to recover, especially if the degree of desalination is modest.
Hope this is of interest,
Household grey water including human waste is only problematic
depending on concentration. There are two humans here living on 16
acres using a septic system... very conservatively there's a thousand
times more wild critter waste, probably that much just from song
birds, not counting water fowl, and mammals... and then there are
reptiles, probably more poop from bullfrogs just in my streams than in
my sceptic system. I have my own private well, it's tested yearly,
passes with flying colors every time. Global warming is a red
herring, used to cover up the real problem, over population...
California especially has way too high a concentation of humans,
mostly unproductive subhuman imbeciles that are in dire need of
expiration (conservatively 60% gotta go). If CA got rid of all those
fast food dives there'd be plenty of water, lots less pollution, and
far lower medical costs from not eating that mystery meat poop. And
of course bacon and other cured meats need to be outlawed, bacon
pollutes far more than laundry detergent (nitrates/nitrites pollute),
can always pick out the bacon addicts, they all weigh over 300 pounds.
dunno as i'm still stuck with septic system
and hate it. i'm not in the kind of setup that
i need perfectly white clothes that often nor do
i worry if some stain isn't completely removed.
i don't dribble on my clothes much anyways...
more often it's just dirt that needs to come out
and BO which washes out with a little soap.
sunshine and fresh air take care of sterilizing
and freshening enough for me.
they detect human strains of e.coli, nutrients too
but some are digested in the tank, but once through
the tank to the groundwater leachfield most have little
more happen to them. this is why agricultural pollutants
in wells are being detected (blue baby syndrome), if the
ground was capable of actually digesting this stuff it
would be done... so it isn't and the price will be paid
by future generations in one way or another... if you
want something digested it has to be brought in
contact with the right bacteria/fungi/organisms which
most do not live down deep enough and are not active
enough to take care of it all. wetlands will do a lot of
cleanup and are a good alternative to agricultural and
also grey water, but best of all is to make sure toxins
aren't getting there to begin with.
it takes a chamber to collect it and then someone to
move it after the chamber gets full. in a single house
you can design the chambers to the right size so that
they don't get emptied until the compost process is
complete (instead you just change which chamber things
go to when one gets full). that ways you only have to
move composted waste. worms and soil will take care of
it. leave it in a covered pile for a year or two and
there's no remaining issues with bacteria or smell.
needs to be covered though to keep rain from leaching
stuff away. prime garden/soil material when done.
if you're worried about bacteria after a year or two
you can bury it below the plants and use topsoil to
cover it and then nothing gets splashed on plant leaves
for apartments the easiest system is gravity fed
chute to a chamber and then the chamber gets emptied
when it gets full and the waste is then composted in
some other location. they have trucks, sucker hoses,
etc. for doing things like this. just has to be be
done and going and then the biogas can be collected
too for burning as it's better to be done than letting
it escape unburned.
unfortunately, it really doesn't work that well for
certain drugs, and mixing industrial pollution and other
waste water with human waste and clean water being used
as transport system is really poor design. we have done
it in the past because water was cheap and rivers acted
like wastewater treatment plants, but now they're finding
out that it doesn't work and the rivers smell like sewage
all the time and the animals are being affected by the
drugs, metals, cleaners, etc... so no, it's not really a
good system and it's going to only get worse with the
water being reduced (already they are having problems in
CA because the systems were designed to have so much water
in them and with the drought people aren't using enough
water can be cleaned up, but you ignore the other side
of the equation, the rejected part of the water is even
more concentrated and unsuitable in many cases for uses
in gardens or agriculture.
they've been doing various projects around the world in
this vein for years. the resulting water is often pumped
into the the ground at some location or sent through a
wetland to make it acceptable at the other end for it to
be withdrawn and then used again (after being treated yet
again). it's a trick used to get people to accept it, but
it is horribly inefficient and expensive when compared to
an alternative system. the problem is that it is the
embedded system so it is hard to get people to change or
to see why the change is needed.
now if you can see the difference in how much those
pipes, pumps, water treatment plants, maintenance, etc.
all cost in comparison to what a dry composting system
would cost and what the maintenance would be. there's
just not enough money in it for the politicians to get
excited about it. not as much room for rewarding cronies,
not consumptive enough, doesn't generate enough taxes,
etc. and of course, people freak out about even thinking
of human waste, so much gets hidden in the waste stream
along with it. a convenient slight of hand for many...
Where I live, sewage (not merely gray water) is treated at a plant that
is mostly gravity fed. The input is from both residential and
commercial sources. At the plant, liquids are separated from solids.
Liquids are "tertiary" treated and then pumped back uphill to irrigate
parks, school playfields, greenbelts, and two golf courses. So far, the
use of such reclaimed water is not covered by drought-induced
restrictions. Furthermore, the ability to use this on school playfields
means it is biologically safe. However, the reclaimed water contains
too much dissolved minerals for domestic use. Because of that,
individual homeowners are not allowed to tap that source; there is a
concern that amateur plumbers -- the homeowners -- might accidentally
cross-connect a reclaimed water line with a potable domestic water line.
This concern about contaminating potable water with reclaimed water
also means that the mains carrying reclaimed water operate at a lower
pressure than potable mains.
The solids are composted to the extent that they too are biologically
safe. Dried, this compost is free to anyone who brings a container --
including a truck -- to the composting site. Again, the presence of
dissolved minerals (possibly heavy metals from commercial sources of
sewage) is a concern. Thus, users of the compost are advised to place
only a small amount in beds containing edible plants such as vegetables
and fruit trees. Larger amounts can be used on ornamental plants.
All this is a result of political pressure from homeowners downstream
from the sewage plant in Malibu. They wanted to restrict the plant's
operation because they feared they too would be required to abandon
their septic tanks and instead connect to sewer lines, thus opening
Malibu to increased development and population density. After the
sewage plant succeeded in developing a market for reclaimed water,
however, those same NIMBY homeowners changed their pressure to require
some of the reclaimed water to flow down Malibu Creek to maintain
riparian wildlife, including fish that had not been in the creek for
The natural flow of water in Malibu Creek above the sewage plant is
contaminated by wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains National
Recreation Area. Now, the Malibu homeowners have convinced California
state authorities to mandate that the flow of water in the creek below
the sewage plant to be cleaner than the natural flow above the plant.
I pay over $500 a year in sewage fees for only my wife and me. There is
no winning, only different ways of losing.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
arg! precisely the problem which should be avoided.
combined residential and commercial sewage... always a
bad idea as it gives the businesses a free pass to let
trace contaminants and odd chemicals off site without
compensation to the treatment facility to manage the
results and it then also contaminates all the wastes so
that they can't be reused. which is why later on you
mention that they can't be reused in veggie gardens
yeah, but once it's applied then it's basically
spreading a contamination issue around. i wonder
what percentage of it is actually used instead of
being landfilled (or in some cases incinerated which
can spread the heavy metals around even more).
if the water is there and the stream benefits why
would this be bad? it returns a previously damaged
river to some forms of life and gives fish habitat
that they'd lost.
i wouldn't call it contamination but that's just me.
animals poop/pee. just if it is safe or not for people
to swim in it or fish it or ...
with modern wastewater treatment plants this is actually
not uncommon at all. the troubles from treatment plants
and sewage is often storm water overflows driven by combined
waste and storm water drains. in many cities here they are
gradually removing such combined systems to give the rivers
a better chance of not being contaminated by sewage overflows.
and it's working. things are gradually improving. but it's
taking time and a lot of money. money which would not be
required to be spent had the systems been dry compost forms
instead. ah well...
that is water and sewage cost or just sewage/disposal
even if we include the cost of the whole plumbing system
here and septic field we could get it to around $300/yr but
that's because we've been here almost 20 years now (wow how
time has gone by!). it doesn't cost that much to have the
tank pumped and taken to the sewage treatment plant. i still
don't like it. a dry system would be much cheaper. sawdust
can be had by the truckload here for not much, leaves and
dirt are free. the gardens would be much happier too.
No one want to pay the costs of duplicate sewage plants and sewer lines
that would be required to treat residential and commercial sewage
None of the compost is burned or transferred to landfills. It is free
for the taking, and many landscape contractors take large amounts.
Much of the cost of treating reclaimed water is paid by the users -- the
parks, golf courses, home-owner association greenbelts. The price of
reclaimed water is about 75% of the cost of potable water, and there are
no drought-imposed restrictions on how much a customer may use. During
the current drought, the demand for reclaimed water approximately equals
the supply. The demand to pour that water into Malibu Creek creates a
shortfall in the supply.
In those terms, it is safe. That is why making the flow even cleaner
downstream from the sewage plant than it is upstream is so outrageous.
Throughout southern California, storm drains and sewage mains are quite
separate. However, the "gunk" rinsed by rain into storm drains can
cause significant pollution at beaches after a major rain storm.
That $500+ is for sewage only. Twice each year, I pay half of it with
my property tax bill; but it is a service charge and not a tax. I pay
my water bill monthly. Water is also expensive. Almost half of my
total utility costs -- water, electricity, phone, and natural gas -- is
for my water bill.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
of course! but in the end it's much better to
make incentives for businesses to clean up their
processes so that things aren't contaminated to
all of the water is then being used and is in
some manner contributing to ground water recharging
and stream flows so to me that's much better than
just sending it out to sea.
i guess i'd rather have a stream flowing than not
even if it means some costs are a little higher.
my guess is that they really can't release water from
any point in the process earlier without causing an
environmental problem. many of the more modern treatment
plants have things in place to recapture the various
chemicals/additives used and the very last part of the
water treatment is an UV flash to kill off any
remaining bacteria/virii. skipping that would be a
bad idea, especially in a warm climate.
yep. cars are not designed to be clean. however,
horses weren't all that good either...
ouch! but it makes sense to me that in an arid
climate that water/sewage would be more expensive to
treat. out there with the somewhat hilly terrian
that isn't all that stable i think maintenance would
also be higher.
In this area, ground water recharging is meaningless. The soils and
subsoils are so mineralized that any springs or wells are unsuitable
even for wildlife to drink and, in some cases, not even suitable for
irrigation. Before my area was served by the California Water Project
aqueduct, ranchers here would pump water into enameled basins and let it
stand in the sun for several day just to get rid of the hydrogen sulfide.
Note that, while users of reclaimed water pay much of the cost of
treating it, those of us who create sewage pay much more of the cost.
The residents downstream from the sewage plant are the problem. They
want the plant not only to treat sewage almost to the quality of
drinking water, but they also want the plant to treat the natural flow
from upstream in Malibu Creek to the same standard.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.