We tend to take our faucets and drains for granted. Water comes into the home for drinking, bathing, appliances, and toilet, and then it quickly exits down drains. The way you use water and what you allow to flow down the drain affects more than your home—it can impact your city or town. Understanding a little about how municipal sewer and water systems work can help keep things flowing and prevent backups.
Municipal water service starts with a source: a lake, a river, or an underground aquifer, all fed by precipitation. It then travels to a treatment plant to remove impurities and make the water safe for consumption.
From the treatment plant, the water is pumped through a system of underground pipes. These are connected to your home through a water service pipe. The city water main is usually under the street in front of your house. Your service pipe runs underground, usually beneath your front yard.
The water from your municipal system is pumped under pressure, so it can reach your home and all the fixtures in it. When you turn on a faucet or another water-using appliance, water travels from your service pipe and past a meter that measures how much water enters the home. This determines your water bill. Then it moves along the branching pipes in your home to the fixtures that need it.
Wastewater is all the water used in the home that flows down the drain. It includes the water you flush from your toilet and the waste it carries. In most homes, gravity carries wastewater toward a vertical pipe, called a standpipe or soil stack, in your basement.
The stack is vented through the roof of your home to maintain proper pressure to keep wastewater flowing out through the main drain line in your home. This drainpipe is usually under your basement floor, in a crawlspace, or under a foundation slab.
Your main drainpipe runs out of your home and through an underground sewer line. It connects with the city’s main sewer line under the street. From there, it flows through larger and larger pipes toward a wastewater treatment plant. The treatment plant removes solid waste and contaminants, so the water safe to release back into the environment.
Conserving Water and Watch What You Flush
The number of people using water simultaneously can affect municipal water pressure. Watering during a drought can strain a municipal water system, forcing some cities to impose restrictions to maintain the water supply.
Sewer systems are impacted by what you flush and what you allow to flow down your drains. Treatment plants encounter all kinds of solid waste that never should have been flushed. When you pour bacon grease and cooking oil down the drain, you not only risk clogging your own pipes, but you contribute to a greasy, growing blob that flows toward the treatment plant.
Grease can be such a problem that commercial businesses and industries have special “traps” to catch it. Furthermore, commercial plumbers provide grease trap cleaning services. This keeps waste grease from flowing into the municipal system.
Your home is one point on a complex system involving pipes, pumps, and treatment facilities. Municipal sewer and water systems make it possible to safely use water in the home and safely release treated wastewater back into the environment.
If you have questions about your homes plumbing, contact Fletcher’s Plumbing and Contacting, Inc.