U.S. Wastewater and Sewage Industry - Statistics & Facts

Wastewater treatment plants are essential for protecting public health and the environment. Since the early 1970s, effluent water quality in the United States has improved through Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) and through major investments contrived by the Clean Water Act. However, much of the existing wastewater infrastructure is deteriorating and requires repair or replacement. Generally, there are two major types of sewer systems used by municipalities in the United States. Combined sewers collect sanitary sewage and stormwater runoff in a single-pipe system to a wastewater treatment plant. However, these combined systems often overflow during times of wet weather and thus, new construction of these systems have not been allowed since the first half of the 20th century. Today, separate sanitary systems are much more common. These systems collect wastewater only and generally do not act as drainage during precipitation. Most of the U.S. population is served by public water and sewer utilities, while many rural areas often obtain drinking water from cooperatives or have their own wells.

Having access to a clean drinking water supply and sanitation is considered a basic need. In the U.S., issues such as water scarcity, pollution, lack of investment, and water prices are concerning, especially as climate change has led to increased droughts and floods. Concerns about drinking water has increased in the United States as environmental regulations have been rolled back under President Donald Trump. Income and race disparities are also evident in water pollution concerns as poor and minority groups tend to be more heavily impacted by environmental pollution. The widely discussed case of contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan has also heightened the issue of drinking water pollution among the general public.

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Wastewater and sewage in the United States - Important statistics

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