"One of the hardest things to do in your household is to dispose of your waste properly."

What’s the Difference Between Septic and Sewer Systems

One of the hardest things to do in your household is to dispose of your waste properly. Between solid and liquid waste, solid waste is easy as most of it can be thrown in the garbage. Then your garbage bin will be cleaned of its contents.

Even when it comes to food waste, your options are simple and easy to choose from. You can choose to compost or dispose of the waste. You can even regrow some veggies from scraps.

However, water or liquid waste is a different matter, as it gets more complicated when disposing of properly.

Luckily, you don’t have to dispose of your water waste manually. You can either have a sewage system or a septic system do it for you. People tend to confuse these two terms a lot, but they are very different from one another. If you want to know how these two systems differ, continue reading.

Septic System

Septic systems are barely talked about, but many American homes and establishments have this setup.  A septic tank system is all about taking all of your water waste down to a buried or above ground tank. However, that’s only the beginning of this environmentally-friendly and efficient process of disposing water waste.

After getting inside your tank, all of the solid parts in your water waste will be naturally dissolved by bacteria colonies. The waste will then turn into sludge and set at the bottom of the tank. All the grease and oil in your water waste will begin to set at the top of the water, turning into what is called scum.

The filtered water will be percolated via the septic system and into a huge land plot called the drain field. The drain field is typically located in your backyard. The grass, wildlife, and other plant life will benefit from the water that naturally comes from your septic system. It’s basically a way to return the water you used back to nature.

Due to its efficiency and eco-friendliness, various government agencies and bodies recommend having a septic system installed in your property or home. Keep in mind that some properties already have a septic system installed. You can look for one by asking your real estate agent or checking if there are any lids or access risers in your yard.

You can also check your water bill for reference. If there’s a fee for “sewage” or “sewage system,” then you aren’t on a property with a septic system.

Alternatively, you can have a septic tank installation company check if you have one for you. Septic systems can last for up to 40 years and more. Don’t be surprised if the old property you just bought already has one.

Sewer System

The sewer system is similar to a septic system up to the point where your water waste goes to after going down the drain. In a septic system, it goes down to a septic tank. However, in a sewer system, your water waste will go down the sewers where its contaminants are removed. The water will then be resupplied back to water facilities.

As per the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the sewer system is “among the most important factors responsible for the general level of good health enjoyed in the United States.” 

Most of the homes and properties in the US-run on the sewer system. You can easily see that your property is on the same system if you are being billed for a monthly sewage fee in your water bills. This is an important part of the neighborhood, but it does have its downsides as well. Which of these two wastewater disposal systems is the better choice?

Which is better?


In terms of costs, having a septic system installed in your home is a little bit expensive. As per Home Advisor, the typical range is between $3,000 – $6,000. However, some properties already come with a septic system. This will be a part of the property’s overall price, so these tend to be more expensive than other homes or properties.

However, once installed, you don’t have to pay for anything else. There are maintenance checks, but these only happen every 3-5 years, depending on the size of the tank.

On the other hand, you don’t have to pay extra for a sewer system. Instead, you’ll have to pay a monthly sewage fee on your water bill. The price depends on your area as well. In the long run, you might have to pay more on sewage fees as you would on the installation of a septic system.


Both processes are eco-friendly, but we’d have to give a point to septic systems in this light. The process is all-natural, and it doesn’t require the use of chemicals to treat the water. Moreover, the effluent water all goes back to nature, meaning that the ecosystem itself benefits from the septic system as well.

Septic tank cleaners will take the remaining scum once they pump your tank. These will then be taken to a water treatment facility to be properly disposed of. Aside from this, wildlife and plant life benefit from the effluent water outside the septic tank. It really helps the water cycle move more efficiently.

Safety and efficiency

Both systems are safe. You don’t have to do much in terms of how you dispose of your water waste. In general, you should avoid getting non-biodegradable materials into both systems. You also shouldn’t pour grease, oil, and tough chemicals down the drain. These can clog or damage pipes, harm the environment, or pollute waterways unnecessarily.

While both are efficient, you have to consider that sewer systems can have issues. If the entire system is affected, all those that rely on it will be as well. As such, if one of your neighbors does something wrong with their wastewater, you could be affected as well. 

In contrast, no other actions other than yours will affect your septic system. Just make sure to take care of your septic tank properly, and you’ll be good to go.

What you choose will mostly depend on your current budget. Both systems have their upsides, so make sure to look into these very carefully.

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About the Author
Stephanie McQueen
Stephanie McQueen
Stephanie is the content curator and resource hoarder of all things tiny houses. She believes everyone can live a sustainable lifestyle, no matter the size of your house. Connect with Stephanie through LinkedIn or her done-for-you branding agency, Employed By Life Online.
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