Where Does Water Go When It Goes Down the Drain?

Where Does Water Go When It Goes Down the Drain? This infographic from High Tide Technologies shows just that.

Where Does Water Go When It Goes Down the Drain?

Many of us are lucky enough to command freshwater at the turn of a tap. Maintaining this luxury relies on a symbiotic relationship between nature, people, and technology. The average US household produces 50-80 gallons of wastewater each day. Multiply that by 127 million households and you begin to understand the need for sustainability.

Wasting Water or Wasting Resources?

It is important to note that there is no new water. All of the freshwater on Earth has been here for 3.5 billion years. It keeps cycling and recycling in an endless journey. It does, however, take a lot of resources for municipalities to collect freshwater from local sources, treat it, and distribute it to millions of homes and businesses.

This is Water’s Endless Journey


Each appliance line is equipped with a drain and a P-trap. The purpose of the P-Trap is to prevent odorous gases from rising up into the house. Good looking out, P-Trap.

Down the Drain

Water that flows from the tap (or appliance lines) and swirls down the drain, with the help of gravity, is directed through a series of pipes that increase in size until connecting to the city’s sewer main line.

Private Sewer Lateral (PSL)

The private sewer lateral line runs under the house and connects the private plumbing system to the city sewer main line. PSL’s have a downward slope that allows wastewater to flow without a pump.

Sewer Main Line

The sewer main line is operated by the city or utility. It functions as a superhighway that connects all private sewer systems and directs traffic to a nearby wastewater treatment facility. Due to uneven terrain, sewer mains can’t always use gravity and require a lift station to pump uphill.

Wastewater Treatment Facility

Through a multistep process, wastewater treatment facilities filter out solids and use bacteria to break down harmful organic matter. Once the water is adequately treated it is recycled into a nearby water source.


Treated water can be reintroduced to the cycle as reclaimed water or it may go to a new treatment facility for further cleaning. Once the treatment process is complete, water is recycled into the environment via natural water sources, where nature cleanses it through its own processes for the next city down the line.

What Does It All Mean?

Wastewater treatment plants are often underfunded entities that have the important job of collecting, treating, and recycling wastewater. The more thoughtful we are about when and how we use water, the more we can contribute to sustainability. The simple act of turning off the tap while brushing your teeth could help reduce our collective carbon footprint. There is no new water on the planet, and there never will be. We have a responsibility to use it wisely.