Wastewater is not just sewage. Defined as domestic, industrial, agricultural, and storm water flows that drain into sewage collection systems, wastewater reflects the geographic character of communities and environments. Sewage, or refuse liquid and waste matter produced by residences and commerce, is often labeled “wastewater;” yet sewage is technically limited to discharge channeled by sewer pipes. Wastewater, however, pulls from a broader array of social and environmental sources: Storm drains, overflowing creeks, septic tank leaks, and runoff from parking lots and pavements, the crop field, and the industrial dump site. Wastewater quality and quantity are thus related to the patterns and politics of water availability, governance, and waste-making practices.

Wastewater composition is approximately 99 percent water by weight, but it contains numerous biological, chemical, and material ...

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