Wise Use of Private Water and Wastewater Systems Can Make the Holidays More Peaceful

Photo by Duncan Rawlinson
Photo by Duncan Rawlinson

By Becky Schuerman, Extension Domestic Water/Wastewater Associate

The holiday season is upon us and that often means a bustling house full of family, friends and preparation of tasty recipes in the kitchen. All of these things should make for joyful times, but they can potentially have a stressful impact on your private water well and onsite wastewater systems.

With the ownership of water well and wastewater systems, comes great responsibility. You oversee the upkeep of your water and wastewater systems, not a municipality. While your immediate family should be familiar with how to avoid undue stress on these systems, your guests likely are not. It’s always good to have a refresher on the best daily practices when it comes to your private water and wastewater systems. With everyone in the know of the best daily practices, you will help each system perform efficiently despite the increased demands on both while having additional house guests.

Water conservation and staggering of higher water demands throughout the day can have a positive impact in reducing strain on both your well and wastewater systems.

• Check for and fix any leaky indoor or outdoor water fixtures such as faucets/hydrants, shower heads or continuously running toilets. Consider replacing older water fixtures with new, low–water usage ones before having a house full of guests.
• Ask everyone to take quick showers and stagger water usage by having some take morning showers while the others take evening showers.
• Lessen wasted water going down the drain by reminding everyone to turn off the water while brushing teeth, washing hands/face or shaving.
• Combine smaller loads of laundry and only do one or two loads per day.
• Run the dishwasher and/or washing machine at night when water use is at its lowest.

Minimizing solids within your wastewater will improve your wastewater system’s performance. Solids add to the organic load in the system and too much organic matter can produce an unbalanced system, resulting in inadequate treatment. Problems can include clogged pipes, clogged filter screens or a clogged and/or saturated drain field.

• When you have a house full of people, it’s wiser to choose composting or the trash over using the garbage disposal to get rid of items such as vegetable skins and trimmings.
• Do not dispose of cooking oils or grease from the cooking of meats by pouring them down the drain at any time; rather pour into a disposable container, refrigerate until solid and put in the trash.
• Avoid flushing items even if they say flushable, such as paper towels, napkins or facial tissue, wet wipes/feminine hygiene items, baby/adult diapers, cotton balls/pads/swabs, dental floss, hair and cigarette butts.

By reminding your immediate family of these best daily practices and educating your guests about them, you help to ensure your water and wastewater systems will not be to blame for a potentially messy and costly disruption of your holiday festivities.

To find more information on maintaining your water well and wastewater systems, see Nebraska Extension’s resources at https://water.unl.edu/residential-water-use

This article contains some content originally written by Meghan Sittler, former Extension Educator.