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2008: "Water To Waste." education publication.

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2008 logoOnsite Wastewater of Northwest Michigan
"Water To Waste." education publication - Return To Main Index

Water To Waste Section Three: The inter-relationship between water use, wastewater, the water cycle and wastewater systems.

EPA WaterSense Logo

WATER IN, WATER OUT: What does it take to power the water cycle?dripping tap

We are all familiar with the messages about conserving energy: turn off lights, replace bulbs with compact fluorescent types, install insulation.
Where are the messages about replacing older toilets with low-flow versions, updating water ravenous appliances, cutting the cost of your energy bill by cutting your water consumption?
And as long as an endless stream of good clean water is flowing from your kitchen faucet, do you care how much is leaking from old decaying municipal infrastructure, or from your pipes? How much is that costing you?

a 1/32" leak wastes 170 gallons in 24 hours
a 1/16" leak wastes 970 gallons in 24 hours
a 1/8" leak wastes 3600 gallons in 24 hours

Water heating accounts for an average 19% of your total home energy use, or over $300+ a year.
Is your faucet dripping at 8 drops per minute?
Go to AAWA’s Drip calculator and see how you are literally pouring money down the sink. www.awwa.org/awwa/waterwiser/dripcalc.cfm

You are paying for electricity to pump, and possibly heat, 1.152 gpd, or 34.5 gallons per month which is going straight to your septic tank or sewer, almost 421 gallons per year from one small drip. A constantly leaking toilet can deposit 200 gpd. How much was your last septic pump out bill?
An average septic tank is 1000 - 1500 gallons capacity - you do the math.
How much is the electricity bill for your local wastewater treatment plant?
Consider how much water and electricity you could save if you
installed just one low-flow toilet .
Look for this logo on participating WaterSense Partners.EPA WaterSense Logo

That’s what USEPA and the American Water Works Association calculates it will cost to repair America’s aging water and sewer lines.
One current leak alone in New York is losing enough treated clean water, 1 billion gallons per day, to supply a city such as Raleigh NC which is currently experiencing a dire drought.
“I and I” or Inflow and Infiltration used to be considered just part of the cost of doing business. Inflow is water form sources other than regular sewer connections such as roof drains. Infiltration is when water enters a sewer system from faulty pipes or pipe joints. Should we plug the leaks, treat waste not water, or build more power plants?

WEF Water Is Life LogoWater Is Life, and Infrastructure Makes It Happen™
is a program designed to assist water and wastewater service providers in communicating the value of our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure. The initiative is an on-going public education program of the Water Environment Federation (WEF) with support from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA). Onsite Wastewater of Northwest Michigan Executive Director Dendra Best is a Michigan WEF member.

In April of 2008, National Geographic [Nat.Geo] set out to graphically demonstrate how even the simplest actions we take every day, often without a thought, will have a lasting, lifetime effect.
The vast majority of us here in northwest Michigan ‘flush and forget’.
We either honestly believe that the sewer and the municipal plant takes care of what we put down our drains, or we often have little understanding of how our back yard septic system functions.
Which ever system you use, it comes with a price tag.

Over the course of an average lifetime, each of us consumes 1.2 million gallons of water.
Beer, pop, bottled water, tea, coffee; the approximately one gallon of water it takes to produce one gallon of gasoline; the gas it takes to produce and deliver and treat the byproduct of all those beverages you will consume; and that’s without considering the 28,433 showers you may take in your lifetime. [Nat.Geo]

Where does it come from, how does it get to your home or business, where does it go when it leaves your body?

The majority of northwest Michigan’s drinking water comes from groundwater fed private wells.
Depending on where the water table is, a well can be as shallow as 30’ or as deep as 450’.
Your back yard septic system treats and recycles the water you use - returning it to groundwater. Municipal systems collect wastewater from a wide area, treat and recycle to the closest surface water.

Each is appropriate dependent on the community needs, public health concerns and environmental constraints. But in changing economic times, when technology is available to make more cost efficient infrastructure decisions without compromising service, health or the environment - which choice is the wisest?

“You can’t sacrifice water quality for energy efficiency. They work together to achieve both goals,” says Dr. Ray Ehrhard.

If the purpose of public or private wastewater systems is to collect, treat and return safe water to the source, why then would we devote energy, materials and labor just to move water from A to B if it wasn’t necessary?

As individual property owners, as community members, as elected officials, when considering the convenience of what may, at first glance, seem the optimum easy choice, pause and consider the other factors: water and energy. The inter-relationship is complicated.

This is the driving force behind the advocacy of wastewater professionals, water agencies and USEPA - that for many rural and small communities - just as for many individual home owners - it makes more economic sense to consider collection, treatment and recycling close to home. Water, energy, the materials necessary for large scale infrastructure projects and finding public financing for construction are all in ever increasing short supply.

“When we talk about energy conservation and renewable energy resources,” says Dr. Richard Otis, “ we need to look no further than our own back yards - literally! We simply can’t afford to build infrastructure in the same way as we did in the past.”

Read more about Sustainable Infrastructure for Water and Wastewater at:
and Water Environment Federation: January 2008, Vol. 20, No. 1:
and the National Onsite Water Recycling Association “Water For All Life” Conference web site at http://www.waterforalllife.org/

Water To Waste Section Two: Water / Energy Efficiency information and EPA WaterSense Program

Water To Waste Section Four: Common sense information about how your wastewater system works

Water To Waste Section Five: Installation, siting, operation and maintenance.

Water To Waste Section Six and Seven: The many amazing things that end up in the waste stream and why we should be careful and concerned.

Water To Waste Section Eight and Nine: The state of our region - an attempt to survey wastewater systems.

Water To Waste Section Ten: The Case For Community Management

Water To Waste Section Eleven: Small community options, choices and solutions

Water To Waste Section Twelve: Understanding northwest Michigan geography and geology and how this relates to wastewater.

Water To Waste Section Thirteen: Information about different types of wastewater systems and case studies.

Water To Waste Section Fourteen: A terrible waste to waste - when there's money to be made and saved by innovation.

Water To Waste Section Fifteen: A word about who we are and our goals for the future - how you can help.

Water To Waste Section Sixteen: Gratitude to our sponsors and links to more information.

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