Drip irrigation systems are an efficient and proven technology many communities use to recycle and dispose of treated wastewater. The effluent is applied to the soil slowly and uniformly from a network of narrow tubing, placed in the ground at shallow depths of 6 to 12 inches in the plant root zone.
Because water is such a precious commodity, recycling wastewater can have both economic and environmental benefits for communities. Reusing wastewater to irrigate land can help protect surface water resources by preventing pollution and by conserving potable water for other uses. This is particularly important where community water supply sources rely on wells. The more water that is pumped from wells and discharged as effluent into a stream or other surface water, the less will be available to recharge aquifer or ground water sources upon which future well water supplies rely.
Another benefit of applying wastewater to the land is that the soil provides additional treatment through naturally occurring physical, biological and chemical processes. Irrigating with wastewater also adds nutrients and minerals to soil that are good for plants and it helps to recharge valuable groundwater resources.
Residential developments with low building density required by septic drain fields contribute to an undesirable sprawl and limit land available for playgrounds, hiking trails and other open space amenities. Spray systems, while superior to septic, can also limit land use since they produce aerosols which require large buffer zones.
Community sewers that use drip irrigation consolidate undersoil treatment into one region of the subdivision. This region can provide a visually appealing common area for the development. Achieving higher land use densities with desirable open spaces are important and shared goals of land use planners, environmentalists and developers alike.
Soil reuse systems require less monitoring and thus lower operating costs when compared to surface discharge.
Additionally, subsurface discharge expedites acquisition of state and county permits by addressing potential concerns of downstream property owners removing any reason for them to contest approval.