Understanding the Three Types of Wastewater – Domestic, Industrial, and Stormwater

In broad terms, wastewater is water that’s been used in some way. It could be water that’s built up in clouds and is now coming down as rain or snow. It’s water that an industrial plant uses to wash food items, rapidly cool down extruded items, or to make items like paper. You also have domestic wastewater that comes from homes.

It’s estimated that 48% of wastewater today isn’t treated before it’s returned to a lake, stream, river, pond, ocean, etc. In districts with wastewater treatment plants, all it takes is one piece of broken equipment to create chaos that leads to the release of untreated wastewater. The importance of properly treating wastewater is critical, especially as many areas experience droughts of unbelievable levels.

Untreated wastewater is part of the problem today. There’s also a problem with water consumption. People need to start weighing their water usage and how to make sure the nation doesn’t run out in future generations.

What can a district do to ensure wastewater, no matter what kind, is properly treated? How do you recycle wastewater to help lower the draw on the nation’s water supplies? To better understand this, take a close look at the three types of wastewater.

Domestic Wastewater

Every day, a person within a home uses an average of 82 gallons of water in some way. It’s estimated that more than twice that is also wasted through water leaks or wasteful habits. Doing the laundry, flushing a toilet, washing your hands, and washing a pet all create stormwater. These are all examples of domestic wastewater.

Domestic water enters sewers from pipes that run from your home to the sewer lines. From there, it continues traveling through the sewer system to a wastewater treatment plant.

More rural areas have septic tanks and septic systems. Solid waste materials like toilet paper, small food particles, and feces sink to the bottom of the septic tank. Liquids travel through an effluent filter and piping to the leach field where it slowly trickles through sand and bedrock to clean it before it returns to the groundwater. The solids in the tank get pumped out every few years, depending on how many people live in the home. They’re transported by septage hauler to a wastewater treatment plant.

Water conversation at this level helps preserve excessive water waste. Simple lifestyle changes can make a difference. Such as:

  • Flushing a toilet less frequently.
  • Turning off the water while you brush your teeth or lather your hands.
  • Wearing the same pants several times if they’re not stained or dirty.
  • Saving water that’s been used to steam vegetables to make vegetable broth.
  • Waiting until a dishwasher is full to run it.
  • Taking one shower a day instead of two or three.
  • Placing rain barrels under gutters and using that to water gardens and lawns.
  • Planting grass and crops that are drought-tolerant.

All of these measures will make a difference, but it’s not just for people producing domestic wastewater to resolve. Steps need to be taken to prevent waste and pollution with all three types of wastewater.

Industrial Wastewater

Industrial wastewater is the wastewater generated by manufacturing plants, food processing plants, oil and gas companies, mines, breweries, paper mills, and many other commercial businesses.

In areas where droughts are common, some companies must establish their own on-site wastewater treatment plants to recycle as much water as they can. Hotels in Las Vegas are one example, they must reuse water instead of drawing on public water supplies to do things like add water to their pools. The same is true of companies like car washes where a lot of water is used.

Many companies that generate industrial wastewater must pre-treat the water before releasing it into the sewer system. If they don’t, they put a strain on systems by sending excessive amounts of heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria, etc. to the wastewater treatment plant for processing. It’s a costly process, so pre-treatment ensures the company responsible for generating the industrial wastewater does its part to help clean the water.


The final type of wastewater is one that people don’t often think of as being wastewater. When there is a heavy storm, rain falls in the streets and goes into storm drains. This is known as stormwater or storm runoff. From there, it may go to a wastewater treatment plant, but that’s not as common as having the stormwater runoff go directly to a channel that leads to a body of water.

As stormwater runoff is not always treated, things that the stormwater picks up along the way end up in a freshwater source nearby. It might be automotive fluids that puddled up from a leak in a car’s engine. Salt that’s spread on the roads in the winter, liquid manure, and animal waste are all things that can end up in stormwater.

Stormwater runoff is an area of concern, as too much rain or snowmelt at once can overload an older system and lead to sewage and stormwater mixing and ending up going to area water sources without treatment, which is a health hazard.

Many cities are starting to realize the importance of finding a way to manage stormwater. Green infrastructure plans help filter out some of the waste from stormwater by adding green roofs, rain gardens, and rain barrels to help capture some of the rain that falls or snow that melts. Plants are able to pre-filter the storm runoff before it reaches bodies of water.

Making Wastewater Treatment More Efficient and Effective

Proper wastewater treatment ensures that wastewater is cleaned of most contaminants before it returns to a lake, river, pond, etc. Not everything is removed through wastewater treatment. Researchers are finding levels of antidepressants and other prescription medications in aquatic animals. Because of this, research is constantly taking place to find better filtration methods and more effective treatment measures.

Another aspect is water reuse. Across the country, water shortages are becoming more and more apparent. Lake Mead is an example of this. The lake is at the lowest level in history, and severe water conservation efforts are underway or there will be shortages. Water reuse is essential. People may not like the idea of drinking water that came from a toilet or washing machine, but it’s important.

Wastewater districts need to make sure the public knows that recycled water is just as safe as the water they currently use. Sometimes, it’s even cleaner.

Consider adding a water treatment plant to your existing wastewater treatment plant. Instead of sending the treated wastewater to a body of water, it goes to a water treatment plant for further processing before it goes to the public water supply for use. Water reclamation has to happen, and your district should look into the upgrades needed. With government grants available for upgrading the infrastructure, it’s a great time to learn more.

Lakeside Equipment specializes in water treatment equipment and facilities. Give us a call or reach out to us via email to learn more about what your wastewater district plant would need to do to upgrade your system to be efficient and cost-effective while creating a clean water source for area residents and businesses to draw on.