The Role of Wastewater Management in Protecting Public Health and the Environment

Every person needs clean water to meet their daily health and sanitation needs. At the same time, local governments must pay attention to what happens to the water after its use. Adequate wastewater management is essential to preventing disease, protecting water sources, and maintaining a thriving community.

What is wastewater?

Wastewater is the product after homes, businesses, or factories use clean water. Once water flows down a drain, it becomes sewage in need of treatment. This used water can contain many harmful impurities, including bacteria, parasites, heavy metals, and other industrial chemicals.

Common Sources of Wastewater

Different types can contain a variety of contaminants. Treatment strategies must address many forms of wastewater pollution.

Residential and Commercial Sewage

When most people think of sewage, they think about whatever flushes down the toilet or flows down the drain. Households and businesses produce wastewater with human and animal waste, food residue, soaps, oils, and paper products.

Industrial Effluent

Factories often use water during manufacturing processes. The resulting wastewater may contain several types of harmful chemicals. In some cases, factories must have onsite water treatment equipment to minimize the danger of their effluent. These facilities will release water that can return safely to the environment or is clean enough for a local treatment plant to handle.

Stormwater Runoff

Storm drains may carry runoff to the treatment plants in some communities. Because most drains are on roadways, this wastewater can contain petroleum residue and animal waste.

Potential Health Effects of Sewage

Untreated sewage threatens a community’s health and quality of life. Raw sewage leads to devastating outbreaks of water-borne diseases and makes communities unlivable.


Bacterial diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and dysentery have caused millions of deaths around the globe. These illnesses are associated with poorer countries that lack adequate water treatment systems. However, such diseases can happen in any place where water treatment plants cannot keep up with local needs.


Public health officials have traced some viral infections to contact with untreated wastewater. Cases of hepatitis A and polio have both resulted from wastewater problems.


Parasitic organisms such as protozoa and tapeworms spread through the waste of their host. Contact with untreated sewage may pass parasite eggs or offspring to a new host.

Environmental Problems

Wastewater effluent releases concentrated impurities in a single location. The contaminants can lead to several environmental impacts.

Wastewater Pollution

The presence of untreated sewage lowers the quality of life for anyone living in the vicinity. The unpleasant smell attracts pests like flies and rats to the area. If industrial chemicals are present in wastewater, they can turn local bodies of water into environmental hazards.

Algae Blooms

Untreated wastewater can carry high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus. These natural fertilizers spur the growth of algae and water plants in ponds and lakes. The resulting blooms disrupt the ecosystem, killing fish and other underwater wildlife.

Water Treatment as a Solution to Wastewater Problems

Treatment facilities are a standard feature of many larger communities. Most of these plants start with settling tanks where gravity separates heavy impurities from clean water. Additional processes such as filtration and disinfection make returning treated water to the environment safe.

Sustainable Wastewater Treatment and Global Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly challenged the world with 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The sixth SDG is the availability of clean water and sanitation for everyone. Wastewater management is essential to meeting this challenge.

However, many smaller communities will need help to build large, centralized wastewater plants. This reality has led to the growth of decentralized water management solutions. Rural communities can use innovative solutions such as coagulation and reverse osmosis to clean water with a smaller footprint and lower cost.

SCADA Technology in Wastewater Systems

System control and data acquisition (SCADA) technology is another tool water treatment plants use to improve safety and efficiency. In a SCADA system, sensors throughout the plant provide real-time feedback to a central station about factors like water pressure, flow rate, and quality. This knowledge empowers treatment facilities to be responsive to unexpected changes, resulting in consistent effluent safety.

Incorporating Cloud-Based SCADA

Water utilities will benefit from incorporating cloud-based SCADA solutions as more communities turn to decentralized treatment solutions. In this model, sensors across a broad geographic area send their data to the cloud, where workers can access it from any location on a phone or tablet. Instant access to relevant information will promote reliable water quality.

High Tide Technology specializes in designing and implementing cloud-based SCADA systems for municipal water collection, treatment, and distribution agencies. Our team can increase the efficiency and consistency of your water treatment facility. Contact us to learn more.