Basically, wastewater is the flow of used water from a community or city. While most people think of it as only sanitary sewage, wastewater comes from many sources, including homes, businesses, schools, and industries.

This flow includes water from showers, sinks, dishwashers, laundries, car washes, hospitals, and food processing operations, and this is just scratching the surface.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), the average American produces 100 gallons of wastewater each day—that’s nearly 1600 glasses of water or almost two full bathtubs!

-"Following the Flow" WEF, 2009

With a clear understanding of the value and needs of adequate wastewater treatment, we can all work together to ensure we meet our clean water and environmental goals.


  • Remove solids – everything from rags and plastics to sand and smaller particles found in wastewater;

  • Reduce organic matter and pollutants – naturally occurring helpful bacteria and other microorganisms consume organic matter in wastewater and are then separated from the water; and,

  • Restore oxygen – the treatment/reclamation process ensures that the water put back into our rivers or lakes has enough oxygen to support life. 

Wastewater treatment/reclamation basically takes place in three stages:

  1. Primary treatment, which removes 40-60% of the solids.

  2. Secondary treatment, which removes about 90% of the pollutants and completes the process for the liquid portion of the separated wastewater.

  3. Solids Processing or Sludge Management, which treats and disposes of biosolids

You can also check out the Water Environment Federation (WEF) interactive wastewater treatment/reclamation map called Be in the Know...Go With the Flow. It takes you on a visual journey through the wastewater treatment/reclamation process

You may also read the "Following the Flow" information packet published by the WEF.