You may have asked yourself this question when you’re doing the dishes or cleaning up after a bath – where does water go when it goes down the sink?
Well it turns out, your water goes down your sink drain and travels on a fascinating journey.
So let’s break it down and look at where water goes when it goes down the sink and what happens along the way.
The Process of Wastewater Treatment
When you empty your sink, wastewater is sent down a pipe, which takes it to a larger sewer pipe beneath your street.
This sewer helps to transport wastewater from multiple sources within a certain area and route them all in one direction. The wastewater then enters the sewage treatment works (or STW), which are responsible for removing pollutants before discharging clean water into rivers or oceans.
This is where things get really interesting.
The Treatment Process
The process of wastewater treatment involves three main steps: primary, secondary, and tertiary treatments.
Primary treatments involve using various physical processes such as screening and sedimentation to remove solids from the water.
Secondary treatment involves biological processes like aeration and filtration to remove organic pollutants from the water.
Finally, tertiary treatments use chemical or physical processes like chlorination, advanced oxidation, and ultrafiltration for further purification before discharging clean water into external water bodies.
At STWs, wastewater is screened to help remove large items like branches, rocks, and toys. This is done to protect the other machinery and processes in the treatment plant.
The wastewater then passes through a sedimentation tank, where it is separated into two layers – a lighter layer of organic materials, which floats on the top, and a heavier layer of sediment at the bottom.
The organic materials are then broken down and processed in an aeration tank. Here, bacteria consume the organic materials and break them down into simpler substances.
The wastewater is then decanted to separate out any remaining solids, which are sent to a sludge treatment plant for further processing.
Finally, the wastewater is then chlorinated or UV treated to kill any remaining harmful bacteria and toxins that may be present in the water.
What Happens Afterward?
Once treated wastewater leaves STWs, it’s released into rivers or oceans in compliance with environmental regulations set by government agencies.
This water may be reused by farms for irrigation or by power plants for cooling purposes. It can also be used to replenish groundwater aquifers that are used by communities for drinking water supplies.
Do Sink and Toilet Water go to the Same Place?
The short answer is yes! All of the water that goes down the drains in your home head to the same place – a sewer in the street. The inner workings of this process are quite simple.
Every one of your household drains is hooked up to a single pipe that carries all the used water from inside your home into the sewer line in the street. This applies not only to toilet drains, shower drains, and sinks but also washing machines, dishwashers – anything else that requires water.
That being said, there are a few important distinctions between the two.
Toilet water is considered “blackwater,” which means it contains human waste, toilet paper, and flush water. While sink water is considered “gray water,” which means it has been used for washing dishes, hands, or clothes (but does not contain human waste).
Graywater is treated differently than blackwater by most municipal sewage systems. Generally speaking, gray water is sent to a wastewater treatment facility, where it’s processed and purified before being discharged into rivers or oceans. Blackwater is usually filtered through a septic tank before being sent out into the environment as well.
It’s important to note that some cities will allow you to use gray water to water your garden or lawn, but this should be done in accordance with local laws. This helps conserve water resources by reusing used water instead of it being completely wasted.
It’s also worth noting that there are also storm drains that move the rainwater away from populated areas during heavy rains or snow melting.
Storm drains may look similar on the surface, but in some cities, they have very different purposes. The sanitary sewers collect wastewater from individual homes while the storm drains take runoff away from populated areas.
Best Practices For Reducing Pollutants in Your Water
We can all do our part to help reduce pollution by being mindful of what we put down our sinks and toilets.
1. Don’t flush anything other than toilet paper down your toilet. This may seem like common sense, but many people still make the mistake of flushing items such as feminine hygiene products or wiping down their toilets, which can clog pipes and sewers and introduce pollutants into waterways.
Make sure everyone in your house knows not to flush anything besides toilet paper down the toilet.
2. Don’t pour cooking oil or grease down your sink drain. Grease and oil are especially damaging because they congeal when they cool off, leading to clogged drains and sewage lines that can lead to overflows and blockages in our waterways.
To prevent this from happening, collect all used cooking oil or grease in an old container with a lid before disposing of it properly in the trash.
3. Use “organic” cleaning products whenever possible. Many traditional household cleaners contain toxic ingredients that can end up polluting our water supply when they have washed away through drains or flushed down toilets.
Whenever possible, use organic cleaning products as they are made using natural ingredients that won’t harm the environment when properly disposed of. Look for products labeled “non-toxic” or “biodegradable”.
So next time you empty your sink or flush your toilet, don’t think of it as just dirty water down the drain – think of it as an adventure.
Water that goes down your sink goes on a long journey from its source to different kinds of treatment plants before being released into rivers and oceans where it can be reused for various purposes.
It can be easy to forget about how much damage household waste can do to the environment when we’re busy going about our daily lives- but it’s important to remember that everything we do has an impact on our planet. By being mindful about what goes down our sinks and toilets we can help reduce pollution from our homes and contribute to creating a healthier planet.
Understanding this will help us appreciate how important water conservation is, and how we can all do our part to protect the environment.