As we move forward in business and as a society we’re starting to see an ever-increasing focus on sustainability. From manufacturing to business processes — environmental stewardship is something that more and more organizations are taking seriously. However, even during such a huge movement towards environmental consciousness in business, we are still seeing such a lack of the same concern when it comes to government. Water quality in Florida has been a huge topic of discussion for me for many years. Poorly maintained septic systems have been incorrectly blamed for a huge portion of our water quality issues and homeowners have been forced to move to central sewer, often taking on debt to pay for the costly assessments. But one thing that is often overlooked is the real carbon footprint of sewer treatment plants and their collection systems.
Septic System Efficiency
Let’s look at a standard septic system. The mechanics of a septic system are very simple; process your wastewater from your home directly into your septic tank and then out to the drainfield and back through into the groundwater. The septic system’s energy use is negligible, because the system doesn’t need to run wastewater very far.
Municipal Wastewater Facility Efficiency
Between 30 and 40% of the operating budgets for wastewater utilities are used on energy. Consider the fact that when you flush your toilet, if it is connected to a central wastewater facility, you’re shipping that wastewater out for miles to lift stations. Lift stations pump the waste through sewer pipes and eventually to a central treatment facility so that water can be processed and treated and then shipped back out to your home. This is requires much more energy than a homeowner would pay just to manage their wastewater at their location.
Ultimately many homeowners don’t have the choice in whether or not they choose septic systems over central sewer, but it’s an important distinction for homeowners that are making more sustainable decisions to understand. While we can all do our part to use water more efficiently to help conserve the energy within these plants, choosing homes with septic systems or demanding more support for existing septic system infrastructure will go a long way into saving tax dollars, using less energy and having less of an environmental impact.