In our latest issue, we focus on Bullhead City, AZ’s decision
to switch from decentralized wastewater treatment to a centralized system that
incorporates water reuse. (Taking
the Bull by the Horns ) As the article points
out, among the many benefits resulting form this infrastructure overhaul is the
added protection to the increasingly threatened Colorado River basin.
Sometimes ditching septic tanks and consolidating your water
treatment and delivery system makes sense, but in some communities the status
quo can be tweaked or improved upon rather than abandoned completely. In many parts of the country,
communities are choosing to move from centralized treatment systems to onsite
water treatment systems. Their
decisions are often based on the realization that small, cluster systems can be
economically and environmentally sound.
From large municipalities and to small rural developments, the future of
water treatment lies in decentralization – and the added advantage of water
reuse makes decentralized water treatment an attractive option for communities
committed to water conservation.
Such is the case in Rincon Point, California, a world famous
surf spot that curves along the Pacific Ocean through two counties and three
communities. In July of 2007, the
Ventura County Board of Supervisors opened the door for a centralized sewer
system by unanimously passing a resolution designed to allow Rincon Point
Homeowners to self impose a septic-to-sewer tax. Those in favor of the resolution believe
replacing the existing septic set up will solve the community’s pollution
But is this really their best option?
Why not replace the existing septic systems with modern
onsite water treatment alternatives rather than installing a costly (and
potentially habitat destroying) centralized sewer system? When properly installed and maintained,
onsite water treatment systems can not only meet federal and state effluent
standards, but be engineered (via advanced treatments such as nutrient removal
and disinfection) to actually benefit the environment in which they are
The truth is sometimes septic systems fail; but so do
centralized sewer systems, and often on a much grander scale. Think of the thousands of miles of
depression era pipes currently sitting quietly beneath city streets: ticking
time bombs waiting to wreak havoc.
Imagine the potential pollution catastrophe when one of those 75-year-old
sewer mains ruptures, spilling out all manner of muck and mayhem.
By comparing a sewer-main break with the failure of a handful
of residential septic systems it’s easy to see the gamble being waged by the
residents of Rincon Point - after
all, isn’t it likely that switching from septic to sewer may merely delay
coastal pollution while setting up Rincon for a much bigger problem 50 years