Increasing the Longevity of Your Septic System 

If you’re like most people, you probably never think about how you’re using your septic system until an issue develops with it. Our access to water and the disposal of water/wastewater is something we all take for granted. Besides putting things down the drain we shouldn’t, we’re all probably guilty of wasting water. It doesn’t take much to conserve: shut off the water when you brush your teeth, shorten your shower, don’t wash clothes that don’t need it, etc. 

Leaks You Might Not Even Know You Have

A common issue in houses are leaks that homeowners are not even aware of. When asked, most people will say nothing is leaking in their house, but toilets, water softeners, and surface runoff in your home might be stressing your septic system more than you think.


Leaking faucets are obvious, but toilets can leak the total amount of water people should use in a day without them even knowing it. Want a quick check to see if your toilet is leaking? Put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank, if it shows up in the bowl after a while, there is most likely an issue that needs to be fixed. Hearing the well pump kick in and run during the night is another indication that something is leaking. 

Water Softeners 

Water softeners that are not working correctly can also waste a lot of water without anyone noticing. Make sure softeners are maintained and pay attention to how much and how often they discharge. Water softener discharge can be discharged to the surface of the ground, so it might be possible to eliminate that amount of water from your wastewater stream. 

Surface Runoff 

A sump pump connected to drain tile should never be connected to the sanitary sewer. It is also good to pay attention to how much surface water is entering your system. A winter with heavy snow can cause systems to go underwater as snow melts and there is ponding in areas where it never has been before. 


Even Out Your Water Usage  

Once the leaks are stopped and you are conserving, you can affect the longevity of your system by the timing of your usage. The more even the water usage is, the better the septic system can handle it. Heavy concentrated usage will send the wastewater through the septic tank too fast, carrying solids out of the tank to the drainfield. An easy way to distribute your water usage: don’t wash all your clothes in one day. Instead spread the washing throughout the week. 

Changing a few habits and becoming aware of a few of these things can help you to avoid expensive problems and increase the longevity of your septic system.


Written by: John Schmitt 

John Schmitt has 42 years of septic installation experience. John is a licensed Wisconsin master plumber (MPRS223760), a Wisconsin licensed sewer designer (1927), a certified WOWRA septic system evaluator (2008035), and a licensed Wisconsin septic system maintainer (MPRSW 223760). 

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