Understanding Wastewater Production and its Impact on Septic System

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to overlook the amount of wastewater we generate and its impact on our septic systems. Yet, understanding the relationship between wastewater production and the materials we use is crucial for maintaining the health and functionality of our septic tanks. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore just how much wastewater the average person produces and how different materials can affect the day-to-day operation of septic systems.

How Much Wastewater Does the Average Person Produce?

Many of us are unaware of the sheer volume of wastewater we generate on a daily basis. From flushing toilets to washing dishes and doing laundry, every household activity contributes to our wastewater output. On average, a single person produces about 80-100 gallons of wastewater per day. However, this figure can vary widely depending on factors such as household size, water usage habits, and the efficiency of water-saving fixtures and appliances.

To put this into perspective, let’s break down some common water usage statistics:

  • Toilet Flushing: The toilet is one of the largest sources of indoor water use in most households, accounting for about 25-30% of total water consumption. Older, inefficient toilets can use up to 3-7 gallons of water per flush, while newer low-flow models use as little as 1.6 gallons per flush.

  • Showers and Baths: Showering and bathing are significant contributors to daily water usage, accounting for approximately 17-20% of total consumption. A typical shower uses around 2.5 gallons of water per minute, while a standard bathtub holds about 36 gallons of water when filled to the brim.

  • Laundry: Washing clothes is another water-intensive activity, comprising about 15-20% of household water usage. Traditional top-loading washing machines use significantly more water than high-efficiency front-loading models, with some older machines consuming up to 40 gallons of water per load.

  • Dishwashing: Washing dishes by hand can use up to 20 gallons of water per session, while modern dishwashers are designed to use as little as 6-10 gallons of water per cycle.

  • Outdoor Water Use: Watering lawns, gardens, and outdoor cleaning activities can also contribute to overall water consumption, particularly in warmer climates or during dry seasons.

The Impact of Different Materials on Septic Systems

Beyond sheer volume, the composition of wastewater and the materials we introduce into our septic systems can significantly impact their day-to-day operation and long-term health. Certain materials can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes within the septic tank, leading to clogs, backups, and system failures. Here’s how different materials can affect septic system performance:

Flushable Wipes and Personal Hygiene Products: Despite their label claims, many “flushable” wipes and personal hygiene products do not break down as easily as toilet paper and can accumulate in the septic tank or clog the system’s pipes and pumps. It’s best to avoid flushing these items and dispose of them in the trash instead.

Grease and Cooking Oils: Pouring grease, fats, and cooking oils down the drain can coat the walls of the septic tank and inhibit bacterial digestion, leading to reduced treatment efficiency and potential odors. It’s advisable to collect grease in a sealable container and dispose of it in the trash once it solidifies.

Chemical Cleaners and Harsh Chemicals: Household cleaners, bleach, drain uncloggers, and other harsh chemicals can kill beneficial bacteria in the septic tank, disrupting the natural treatment process. Opt for environmentally-friendly cleaning products labeled as safe for septic systems whenever possible.

Non-Biodegradable Materials: Items such as cigarette butts, dental floss, cotton swabs, sanitary products, and plastics should never be flushed down the toilet or introduced into the septic system, as they can accumulate and cause blockages.

Excessive Water Usage: Overloading the septic system with excessive water usage can overwhelm its capacity to treat wastewater effectively, leading to backups and system failures. Conserving water through the use of water-saving fixtures and appliances can help alleviate strain on the septic system.

Maintaining a Healthy Septic System

Proper maintenance and conscientious water usage habits are essential for preserving the health and functionality of your septic system. Here are some tips for keeping your septic system running smoothly:

  • Regular Pumping: Schedule regular septic tank pumping every 3-5 years to remove accumulated solids and prevent system backups.

  • Water Conservation: Install water-saving fixtures and appliances, such as low-flow toilets, showerheads, and high-efficiency washing machines, to reduce water usage and strain on the septic system.

  • Avoiding Harmful Materials: Dispose of grease, cooking oils, flushable wipes, and harsh chemicals in the trash rather than down the drain.

  • Biodegradable Products: Use biodegradable soaps, detergents, and cleaning products labeled as safe for septic systems to minimize disruption to bacterial activity.

  • Routine Inspections: Schedule regular inspections by a qualified septic system professional to identify and address any issues before they escalate into costly repairs.

  • Landscaping Considerations: Avoid planting trees or shrubs near the septic system components to prevent root intrusion, and refrain from driving or parking vehicles over the septic tank or drainfield.


Awareness of wastewater production and its impact on septic system performance is the first step toward responsible water usage and system maintenance. By understanding how different materials can affect septic system operation and adopting proactive measures to mitigate potential issues, homeowners can ensure the longevity and effectiveness of their septic systems for years to come. Remember, a little care and conscientiousness go a long way in preserving the health of your home and the environment.

For a Free Quote and Sizing on all Septic Tanks Made in Australia call the team at Eco-Septic on 1800 808 135