Drought conditions require new approaches

Nov. 20, 2007
Drought is spreading fast across the US with 43 percent of the country now under drought conditions. The National Climate Data Center reported in mid-October that the drought parching the south and west has now spread to the Mid-Atlantic States. With these conditions expected to continue and some areas already in a water supply crisis, strategies for long term measures to protect and remediate our water supplies are critical. One answer to the challenge of replacing the water we use is onsite...

• Conditions force reassessment of water supply and treatment strategies says Infiltrator Systems Inc.

Nov. 8, 2007 -- Drought is spreading fast across the US with 43 percent of the country now under drought conditions. The National Climate Data Center reported in mid-October that the drought parching the south and west has now spread to the Mid-Atlantic States. With these conditions expected to continue and some areas already in a water supply crisis, strategies for long term measures to protect and remediate our water supplies are critical

One answer to the challenge of replacing the water we use is onsite or "decentralized" wastewater treatment as opposed to centralized sewers. Unlike central sewer systems, decentralized septic systems naturally treat and purify wastewater and replace 100 percent of the purified wastewater safely to the environment to recharge groundwater supplies. Currently, one in four households in the United States uses an onsite septic system to process household waste.

In a drought, a properly maintained septic system actually eases a water shortage by recharging local streams, ultimately returning water to reservoirs, according to Todd Rasmussen, a professor of hydrology at the University of Georgia in a recent article published in the Gainesville (Ga.) Times.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Properly managed decentralized wastewater systems can provide the treatment necessary to protect public health and meet water quality standards, just as well as centralized systems."

In most states, both onsite wastewater treatment systems and central sewers are used. The frequency of each depends on the area, population, and environmental concerns. Cost of a typical onsite system is between $2500 and $7500 to purchase and install plus around $250 every 3 to 5 years to maintain. This compares to around $20,000 per home over a 20 year period for a sewer hookup and usage fees.

"The public is getting misinformation about these wastewater workhorses," comments Mark Hooks, National Onsite Wastewater Research Association board member and regulatory consultant for Infiltrator Systems Inc. "What we want them to know is that septic. systems actually help prevent drought and health issues and conserve energy -- and, they don't overflow into our water bodies during power outages."

Infiltrator Systems Inc, based in Old Saybrook, CT, is a world leader in onsite wastewater treatment.

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