Maintenance Q&As

What are the most interesting statistics and facts about wastewater management?

Answered October 28 2019

Water is critical to all life on this earth. The way we manage our wastewater impacts our health, our productivity, and our economy. Here are the most interesting statistics and facts about our world’s wastewater management practices.

Sewage pipe wastewater management

Industrial Wastewater Facts

• Wastewater discharges and the resulting pollution make a greater impact than water used during the production process.

• Industries that rely on organic raw materials create the largest amount of organic pollution.

  A lot of industrial, untreated wastewater is released into open waterways, which negatively affects the quality of water overall by potentially entering aquifers and groundwater.

  Industrial water usage makes up about 22 percent of global water usage.

  In 2009, European and North American industries used 50 percent of all water, compared with only 4 percent to 12 percent usage in developing countries.

Residential Wastewater Facts

• According to estimates from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), roughly 23,000 to 75,000 sanitary sewer overflows happen each year.

• An estimated 3 billion to 10 billion gallons of untreated waste is released from sewage treatment plants annually.

  Nineteen percent of homes use septic systems that may contribute to contamination.

• An estimated 14,748 public-owned water treatment plants provide wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal service to 238.2 million people.

• Toilets, showers, and faucets represent 62% of all indoor water use.

Contamination Facts

  The US EPA reports that 53 percent of the miles in rivers and streams, 98 percent of shoreline miles on the Great Lakes, 71 percent of acres in lakes, and 79 percent of estuarine square miles are not acceptable for at least one type of water use.

  Public treatment facilities must treat more than 8 million tons of dry-weight sludge per year, consuming one-third of all its electricity use.

  About 80 percent of wastewater worldwide flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. That means 1.8 billion people use a contaminated source of drinking water.

Maintenance and Renovation Facts

  The 600,000 miles of sewer systems in the country have a 50-year life expectancy.

  Treatment equipment has a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.

  Deteriorated sewer pipes will increase from 10 percent of the sewage network in 1980 to 44 percent of the network in 2020 with no upgrades.

  In 2012, the U.S. spent $102 billion building and updating wastewater treatment plants, $95 billion on installing and repairing sewer pipes, and $48 billion in combined sewer overflow corrections.

Preventive maintenance can help improve the performance of the 19,000 wastewater collection systems in the country, valued at more than $1 trillion.

The Future of Wastewater Management

  A growing number of companies are applying for certification through ISO 14001, which is the international standard for environmental management administered by the International Organization for Standardization.

• In 1993, more than 46,000 companies worldwide were ISO 14001 certified. By 2010, this number reached more than 400,000 in more than 171 countries.

• In 2010, the state of California recycled roughly 650,000 acre-feet of water per year. The state hopes to increase water recycling to reach a minimum of 1 million ac-ft per year by 2020 and 2 million ac-ft per year by 2030.

• After stabilization, more than half of qualified biosolids can be applied to agricultural sites, forestry applications, reclamation sites, and urban park areas.

• According to a National Academy of Sciences study, the country’s coastal cities could increase their water supply 27 percent with treated wastewater.

• Florida leads the nation in reusing water, with approximately 719 million gallons of reclaimed water used for beneficial purposes each day.

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