For the most part, our drainage system works pretty well.
Our wastewater (the water from appliances e.g. dish washers, toilets and sinks) is connected to a waste water sewer, which diverts the water to a sewage treatment works. This water is then purified through different processes before being released back into the natural environment.
water is extracted from the natural environment — we use that water — our wastewater (water that has been used) is sent to the sewage treatment works — the water is purified — that water is returned to the natural environment
Rainwater, on the other hand, falls into a surface water sewer, where it is runs directly into a waterway.
it rains — water goes into the surface water sewer — the water runs to the nearest waterway — that water enters the water cycle
On paper, it is a foolproof system.
Sometimes wastewater pipes are connected to a surface water sewer, meaning that the untreated water flows straight into a waterway.
Domestic wastewater contains contaminants that can have an adverse impact on the environment, but also our health. A lot of the pollutants come from our faeces, which contain intestinal disease organisms such as E coli; conventional cleaning products and detergents contain harsh chemicals, which disrupt the natural ecosystem; and the items that are flushed down the toilet (such as sanitary items, wet wipes, and cotton buds), which create blockages and pollute the natural environment.
At a sewage treatment plant, such pollutants are treated until the water is deemed fit to return back into the natural environment. Yet if our drains are misconnected, it means that these contaminants escape directly into the natural environment.
In the UK, it is estimated that between 150,000 and 500,000 houses have drain misconnections and that 15% of rivers in England and Wales have failed water quality standards as a result of these misconnections.
Connect Right suggest the following:
If you are not connected to the public sewer and rely on a septic tank or private sewage treatment plant, you can also make a difference by making sure that your septic tank or private sewage treatment plant is properly maintained:
Though maintaining sewer systems might not be the most attractive of tasks, it can make a huge difference for rivers, wildlife and our health.
Check out our pledge system for more information on more actions you can take to promote clean and healthy rivers.