sewage system

sewage system

Collection of pipes and mains, treatment works, and discharge lines (sewers) for the wastewater of a community. Early civilizations often built drainage systems in urban areas to handle storm runoff. The Romans constructed elaborate systems that also drained wastewater from the public baths. In the Middle Ages these systems fell into disrepair. As the populations of cities grew, disastrous epidemics of cholera and typhoid fever broke out, the result of ineffective separation of sewage and drinking water. In the mid-19th century the first steps were taken to treat wastewater. The concentration of population and the addition to sewage of manufacturing waste that occurred during the Industrial Revolution increased the need for effective sewage treatment. Sewer pipe is laid following street patterns, and access holes with metal covers allow periodic inspection and cleaning. Catch basins at street corners and along street gutters collect surface runoff of storm water and direct it to the storm sewers. Civil engineers determine the volume of sewage likely, the route of the system, and the slope of the pipe to ensure an even flow by gravity that will not leave solids behind. In flat regions, pumping stations are sometimes needed. Modern sewage systems include domestic and industrial sewers and storm sewers. Sewage treatment plants remove organic matter from waste water through a series of steps. As sewage enters the plant, large objects (such as wood and gravel) are screened out; grit and sand are then removed by settling or screening with finer mesh. The remaining sewage passes into primary sedimentation tanks where suspended solids (sludge) settle out. The remaining sewage is aerated and mixed with microorganisms to decompose organic matter. A secondary sedimentation tank allows any remaining solids to settle out; the remaining liquid effluent is discharged into a body of water. Sludge from the sedimentation tanks may be disposed of in landfills, dumped at sea, used as fertilizer, or decomposed further in heated tanks (digestion tanks) to produce methane gas to power the treatment plant.

Learn more about sewage system with a free trial on

Sewage is the mainly liquid waste containing some solids produced by humans which typically consists of washing water, feces, urine, laundry waste and other material which goes down drains and toilets from households and industry. It is one type of wastewater and is a major actual or potential source of pollution, especially in urban areas. It is estimated that pollution of drinking water due to feces is by far the biggest cause of death worldwide. Well-organized sewage services prevent pollution of the environment due to sewage by managing the collection, treatment, and recycling or safe disposal of sewage in the environment. As of 2004 in the U.S., 850 billion gallons of raw sewage were dumped into waterways every year.


  • The words 'sewage' and 'sewer' come from Old French seuwiere or from Anglo-Norman sewere or from Anglo-French assewer, essiver meaning "(channel) to drain the overflow from a fish pond" or "to drain" and ultimately from Vulgar Latin *exaquare or *exaquria, from Latin ex- ‘out of’ + aqua ‘water’.
  • The words 'sewerage' and 'sewage' were used interchangeably (but wrongly) in the past. This use is correct in US English.


According to Teresi et al. (2002):
The Indus architects designed sewage disposal systems on a large scale, building networks of brick effluent drains following the lines of the streets. The drains were seven to ten feet wide, cut at two feet below ground level with U-shaped bottoms lined with loose brick easily taken up for cleaning. At the intersection of two drains, the sewage planners installed cesspools with steps leading down into them, for periodic cleaning. By 2700 B.C., these cities had standardized earthenware plumbing pipes with broad flanges for easy joining with asphalt to stop leaks.

The first sanitation system have been found at the prehistoric Middle East and the surrounding areas. The first time an inverted siphon system was used, along with glass covered clay pipes, was in the palaces of Crete, Greece. It is still in working condition, after about 3000 years. The system then remained with not much progress until the 16th century, where, in England, Sir John Harington invented a device for Queen Elizabeth (his Godmother) that released wastes into cesspools.

Sewage services

Collection and disposal

A system of sewer pipes (sewers) collects sewage and takes it for treatment or disposal. The system of sewers is called sewerage or sewerage system (see London sewerage system) in UK English and sewage system in US English. Where a main sewerage system has not been provided, sewage may be collected from homes by pipes into septic tanks or cesspits, where it may be treated or collected in vehicles and taken for treatment or disposal. Properly functioning septic tanks require emptying every 2-5 years depending on the load of the system.

Sewage and waste water is also disposed of to rivers, streams and the sea in many parts of the world. Doing so can lead to serious pollution of the receiving water. This is common in third world countries and may still occur in some developed countries, where septic tank systems are too expensive.


Sewage treatment is the process of removing the contaminants from sewage to produce liquid and solid (sludge) suitable for discharge to the environment or for reuse. It is a form of waste management. A septic tank or other on-site wastewater treatment system such as biofilters can be used to treat sewage close to where it is created.

Sewage water aka crap is a complex matrix, with many distinctive chemical characteristics. These include high concentrations of ammonium, nitrate, phosphorus, high conductivity (due to high dissolved solids), high alkalinity, with pH typically ranging between 7 and 8. Trihalomethanes are also likely to be present as a result of past disinfection.

In developed countries sewage collection and treatment is typically subject to local, state and federal regulations and standards.

See also



  • Teresi, Dick; et al. Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Babylonians to the Maya. New York: Simon & Schuster.

External links

Search another word or see sewage systemon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature