Sewage Systems 101: How Does It Work and Why Is It Crucial for Public Health?

Sep 27, 2023 | News

Welcome to Sewage Systems 101, where we delve into the inner workings of this essential infrastructure and its profound impact on public health. In today’s modern world, we often take for granted the miracle that is the sewage system. It is the unsung hero that quietly removes and treats waste, keeping our communities safe and healthy.

So, how does it work? First, wastewater from homes, businesses, and industry enters the sewage system through drains and toilets. From there, it travels through a vast network of underground pipes to treatment plants. These facilities use a combination of physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove contaminants from the water. Once treated, the water is released back into the environment, often finding its way back to lakes, rivers, or oceans.

But why is all of this crucial for public health? The answer is simple: improper management of sewage can lead to the spread of diseases and pollution of our water sources. A functioning sewage system prevents the build-up of harmful substances, minimizing the risk of waterborne illnesses and protecting ecosystems.

Stay with us as we explore the intricacies of sewage systems and highlight the importance of this vital infrastructure for our well-being.

The importance of sewage systems for public health

Sewage systems are essential for maintaining public health. They protect us from waterborne diseases, which can cause severe illness and even death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2.2 million deaths each year are caused by waterborne diseases, with the majority of these occurring in developing countries.

A functioning sewage system is also essential for preventing the contamination of our water sources. Without proper management, wastewater can pollute rivers, lakes, and oceans, harming aquatic life and making the water unsafe for human consumption.

Sewage systems are also crucial for preventing the spread of diseases. Contaminants in wastewater can include bacteria, viruses, and parasites, which can cause illnesses such as cholera, typhoid fever, and hepatitis A. By removing these contaminants from the water, sewage systems help to prevent the spread of these diseases.

Components of a sewage system

Sewage systems consist of several components, each playing a crucial role in the proper management of wastewater. These components include:

Collection system

The collection system is the network of underground pipes that transport wastewater from homes, businesses, and industry to treatment plants. The pipes are usually made of durable materials such as PVC or concrete and are designed to withstand the weight of the wastewater and the pressure of the surrounding soil.

Treatment plant

The treatment plant is where wastewater is treated to remove contaminants. Treatment plants use a variety of physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove contaminants from the water. The exact processes used will depend on the type of contaminants present in the wastewater and the level of treatment required.

Discharge system

The discharge system is the network of pipes that transport treated water back into the environment. The pipes are usually buried underground and can transport water over long distances to its final destination.

How does a sewage system work?

A sewage system works by collecting wastewater from homes, businesses, and industry and transporting it to a treatment plant. Once at the treatment plant, the wastewater undergoes a series of processes to remove contaminants and make it safe for discharge into the environment.

The first step in the treatment process is to remove large solids such as leaves, sticks, and other debris. This is done using screens and grit chambers that separate the solids from the liquid wastewater.

Next, the wastewater is subjected to biological treatment, where bacteria and other microorganisms are used to break down organic matter. This process can take several hours to several days to complete, depending on the level of treatment required.

After biological treatment, the wastewater is subjected to secondary treatment, where chemicals such as chlorine or UV light are used to remove remaining contaminants. This process ensures that the water is safe for discharge into the environment.

Finally, the treated water is discharged back into the environment, where it can find its way back to rivers, lakes, or oceans. Some treatment plants also recycle the treated water for non-potable purposes such as irrigation or industrial use.

Types of sewage systems – centralized and decentralized

Sewage systems can be classified into two broad categories: centralized and decentralized.

Centralized sewage systems

Centralized sewage systems are the most common type of sewage system and are used in urban areas and large towns. They consist of a network of underground pipes that transport wastewater from homes, businesses, and industry to a treatment plant.

Centralized systems are usually operated by a public utility or municipality and are funded by taxes or user fees. They are expensive to build and maintain but are generally more efficient and cost-effective than decentralized systems.

Decentralized sewage systems

Decentralized sewage systems are used in rural areas and small towns where centralized systems are not practical. They consist of individual septic tanks or treatment systems that treat wastewater on site.

Decentralized systems are usually owned and operated by individual property owners and are not connected to a central network. They are cheaper to install than centralized systems but require more maintenance and are less reliable.

Challenges and maintenance of sewage systems

Sewage systems face several challenges that can affect their performance and reliability. One of the biggest challenges is aging infrastructure. Many sewage systems were built decades ago and are in need of repair or replacement.

Another challenge is the increasing volume of wastewater generated by a growing population and expanding industry. This can strain the capacity of existing sewage systems, leading to overflows and backups.

Proper maintenance is essential to ensure the proper functioning of sewage systems. This includes regular inspections, cleaning, and repair of pipes, pumps, and other components. It also includes proper disposal of hazardous materials that can damage or clog the system.

The role of sewage systems in preventing water pollution

Sewage systems play a critical role in preventing water pollution. Without proper management, wastewater can contain harmful contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and chemicals that can harm aquatic life and make the water unsafe for human consumption.

By removing these contaminants from the water, sewage systems help to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases and ensure that our water sources remain clean and safe.

The impact of sewage systems on the environment

Sewage systems can have a significant impact on the environment. Properly managed systems can help to prevent pollution and protect ecosystems. However, poorly managed systems can lead to the contamination of water sources and harm aquatic life.

Sewage systems can also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Treatment plants use energy to power pumps, blowers, and other equipment, and can emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, during the treatment process.

Innovations in sewage system technology

In recent years, there have been several innovations in sewage system technology that have improved the efficiency and effectiveness of these systems. These include:

Advanced treatment technologies

Advanced treatment technologies such as membrane filtration and reverse osmosis are being used to remove even more contaminants from wastewater. These technologies are expensive but are becoming more affordable as the technology improves.

Energy recovery

Treatment plants are increasingly using biogas generated during the treatment process to generate electricity. This helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs.

Smart monitoring

Smart monitoring systems are being used to monitor the performance of sewage systems in real-time. This allows operators to identify issues before they become major problems and make adjustments to improve the efficiency of the system.


Sewage systems are a vital infrastructure that protects public health and the environment. Properly managed systems ensure that our water sources remain clean and safe and prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.

While sewage systems face several challenges, innovations in technology are helping to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. By continuing to invest in these systems, we can ensure that they continue to protect our communities for generations to come.

Why use Drain Blasters?

Cutting edge technology

Drain Blasters only works with the latest technology and equipment, using high pressure water-jetting.

Portable equipment

Our portable equipment can be carried into buildings and lifts in order to access those hard to reach places.

Scalable Equipment

Our fleet ranges in capacity and size from 1 to 10 tonne waste removal capacity and drain clearing capabilities, suitable for residential and industrial blockages.


Highly experienced teams

Our teams are made up of highly experienced individuals who are professional and friendly

24/7 Service

We are on call 24/7 to assist in the case of emergencies and short notice service

Competitive Prices

We offer highly competitive pricing while maintaining a high level of service

Our Services

Drain Clearing

Our experienced experts are available around-the-clock and are equipped with the latest drain clearing tools and technology to get the job done fast and effectively.

Liquid Waste Removal

We offer a professional, socially responsible & price effective solution as a leader in liquid waste management.

Septic Tank Cleaning

We specialize in septic tank cleaning and drainage, whereby we pump out and clean the contents of septic tanks.

Grease Trap Cleaning

Our grease trap cleaning process ensures a free flowing drainage system and alleviates odours in your workplace in a systematic, discreet and environmentally friendly manner.

Grease Traps

We proudly install grease traps into restaurants and institutions which require filtration of grease, fats, and oils from their wastewater.

Sewage Removal

We have extensive expertise and experience in resolving sewerage blockages of all sizes, with special care taken to dispose of sewage safely and effectively.

Areas We Service

Drain Blasters services almost all areas across Cape Town and Surrounding Areas

Airport Industria | Athlone | Atlantic Seaboard | Atlantis | Bakoven | Bantry Bay | Bellville | Bergvliet | Bishopscourt | Blackheath | Bloubergstrand | Bo-Kaap | Boland | Bothasig | Brackenfell | Brooklyn | Camps Bay | Capri Village | CBC | Century City | Claremont | Clifton | Clovelly | Constantia | Crawford | Crossroads | Culemborg | Darling | De Waterkant | Devil's Peak Estate | Diep River | Durbanville | Edgemead | Eersteriver | Elsie's River | Epping | Epping 2 | Epping 1 | Fish Hoek | Foreshore | Franschoek | Fresnaye | Gardens | Glencairn | Goodwood | Gordon's Bay | Green Point | Harfield Village | Heathfield | Hout Bay | Imizamo Yethu | Kalk Bay | Kenilworth | Kenwyn | Killarney Gardens | Kirstenhof | Kommetjie | Kraaifontein | Kreupelbosch | Kuils River | Lakeside | Lansdowne | Llandudno | Lotus River | Maitland | Malmesbury | Mamre | Meadowridge | Melkbosstrand | Milnerton | Montague Gardens | Mouille Point | Mowbray | Muizenberg | Ndabeni | Newlands | Noordhoek | Northern Suburbs | Observatory | Ocean View | Oranjezicht | Paarden Island | Paarl | Panorama | Parklands | Parow | Philippi Industrial | Pinelands | Pinelands | Plattekloof | Plumstead | Retreat | Rondebosch | Rondebosch East | Rosebank | Rugby | Sacks Circle | Salt River | Scarborough | Schotsche Kloof | Sea Point | Simon's Town | Somerset West | Southern Suburbs | SouthField | St James | Steenberg | Stellenbosch | Stikland | Strand | Sun Valley | Sunnydale | Table View | Tamboerskloof | Thornton | Three Anchor Bay | Tokai | Vredehoek | Waterfront | Wellington | West Beach | Wetton | Woodstock | Wynberg | Zonnebloem