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Localised treatment and reuse of wastewater: Science, technology and management

Ho, G. (1994) Localised treatment and reuse of wastewater: Science, technology and management. In: Workshop papers on localised treatment and recycling of domestic wastewater, 30 November, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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The primary objective of wastewater treatment and disposal is the protection of public health. Wastewater of domestic origin contains pathogens, suspended solids (SS), substances causing biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), nutrients (nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)) and a hosts of other possible pollutants, which may need to be removed before the wastewater can be safely disposed. Standards have been developed for the safe disposal of the wastewater, and so have the, technologies to meet them. The technologies that have been developed are generally for centralised large scale systems associated with reticulated sewerage, and the treated wastewater is for disposal rather than reuse. Options for reuse are recognised as being limited with large scale systems in urban areas, because of the need of a reticulation system for the treated wastewater.

On-site treatment of wastewater for individual houses is a necessity in areas without reticulated sewerage, but interest in on-site treatment is growing. One reason is that the technology for on-site treatment is maturing, and reuse of the treated wastewater is an option. Thus the owner of an on-site system has total control of the wastewater and its use. In an urban community where there is a desire to develop an urban village the treatment of wastewater from a group of houses within the urban village community offers the opportunity to achieve what is desired by such communities, i.e. integrated management of water.

The maturing of the technology for on-site wastewater treatment is due to a large part to the application of scientific principles to the improvement of the outdated septic tank technology. This paper therefore broadly reviews the scientific principles applicable to on-site wastewater treatment and reuse, and assesses available technologies with respect to their science content.

On-site treatment of wastewater may not provide all the answers to the problems of wastewater disposal and reuse. Issues needing to be addressed are, for example, whether individual householders can be expected to maintain a sophisticated wastewater treatment unit in the backyard, and the imbalance between water supply and demand in different seasons. This paper therefore also attempts to discuss issues related to the management of on-site wastewater treatment units, and whether science and technology can provide answers. An introductory paper like this one can only attempt to cover some of the issues and stimulate discussions in subsequent sessions in the workshop.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
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