Water conservation can prolong septic system life

In addition to regular maintenance, practicing water conservation can help maintain and sustain the life of your system.

Maintaining your septic system is the top priority to extending the life of the system.  Regular pumping and component inspection can find issues before they become potentially big, expensive repairs. Because water is the main reason for having a septic system, most homeowners don’t think about how reducing the water going into their septic system can have positive impacts.

As a refresher, after the septic tank is filled – either for a new system or a just pumped tank – every gallon of water into the tank means a gallon must exit the tank and go into the drain field.  So, the less water that goes into the system, the less water that the system needs to process.

The homeowner’s goals should be to release as little water as possible into the drain field and release it over time rather than in a big flood.  The best way to do that is to practice water conservation in all areas of the home.

The average household uses 130,000 gallons of water per year. That’s 350 gallons a day. By installing and using water saving features and adopting water reduction activities, homeowners can reduce their water use by 35 percent. That’s 44,000 gallons a year and 125 gallons a day! Additionally, if you’re on a municipal water system, that is also a big saving every year!

Some water conservation practices that will pay off big time for your septic system:

  • Install low–flow faucet aerators and showerheads. Using these low-flow devices is the best water conservation action to take and usually the cheapest.
  • Do laundry one load daily instead of all loads in one day. This reduces the amount of water going into the system at one time. Adjust the water level to match the amount of the clothes being washed.
  • Fix leaky faucets and toilets to reduce the amount of water going into the system. Studies show that leaks account for more than 10% of the household water used.
  • Only run the dishwasher when there’s a full load.
  • When hand washing dishes, use one bowl to wash and fill the other bowl with rinse water.  For a single bowl, wash and stack dishes in a drainer, then rinse with a sprayer
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly.  Disposers require a lot of water to run properly.
  • Don’t run the washer, the dishwasher and take a shower at the same time to reduce overloading the system with water at one time.
  • Do not connect sump pumps to the septic system. This will prevent water that does not need treating from going into system.
  • Do not water the grass over or around the drain field. The field gets enough water from household use and does not need any additional water from lawn watering.

By adopting simple water conservation practices, you can prolong the life of your septic system and save money at the same time.

Michigan State University Extension is holding a Septic System Use and Maintenance Workshop on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Ray Township Senior Center, 64255 Wolcott, Ray Township from 6 to 8:30 PM.  This program will cover all aspects of use and maintenance of a septic system and its connection to wells. The program is free but registration is recommended at:

MSU Extension also has other resources about septic systems on their web page

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