Wastewater removal and treatment is critical to protect public health. Wastewater treatment processes improve water quality by reducing toxins that cause harm to humans and pollute rivers, lakes, and oceans. Wastewater enters the treatment system from households, business, and industry through public sewer lines and, in many places across the country, stormwater drains.
Wastewater treatment is typically overseen by a community utility or public works department that ensures water quality standards are met before the treated water is discharged back into the environment. In most localities, all publicly-supplied water is treated to meet federal drinking water standards, regardless of whether it will be used for drinking. Nearly 240 million Americans – 76% of the population – rely on the nation’s 14,748 treatment plants for wastewater sanitation. By 2032 it is expected that 56 million more people will connect to centralized treatment plants, rather than private septic systems – a 23% increase in demand. In the U.S., there are over 800,000 miles of public sewers and 500,000 miles of private lateral sewers connecting private property to public sewer lines. Each of these conveyance systems is susceptible to structural failure, blockages, and overflows. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that at least 23,000 to 75,000 sanitary sewer overflow events occur in the United States each year.
As new users are connected to centralized treatment, older conveyance and treatment systems must manage increasing flow or new treatment facilities must be constructed. It is estimated 532 new systems will need to be constructed by 2032 to meet future treatment needs.