Waste and sewage are a natural outcome of everyday human activity. For most people in the western part of the world, the government is the one that removes the waste as sanitarily as possible. However, since you are living or planning to live off the grid, the task of sanitation is yours. Knowing everything about an off grid septic system and off grid sanitation ensures that you will run a clean and comfortable home.
This guide will help you to get started. We will discuss greywater and blackwater sewage, septic systems and composting toilets. These elements guarantee that your off-grid home stays ecologically friendly throughout the year.
Greywater Sewage in Off Grid Living
Sanitation is a critical component of successfully living off grid. Without proper sanitation protocols in place, you are putting your health, and the health of others, at high risk. Runoff can be extremely dangerous if harmful pathogens and bacteria are present. Therefore, careful consideration and precautions must be taken.
This being said, there are two types of water waste: greywater and blackwater. Greywater comes from sinks, washing machines, and showers. It can be processed and recycled, as it does not have the same harmful bacteria and pathogens that blackwater has. Blackwater comes from toilets. It needs to go back to the earth.
There are three stages to water treatment: separation of solids from liquids, biological filtration, and mechanical filtration. Biological filtration employs friendly bacteria that denature the harmful bacteria in a heavily oxygenated environment. Mechanical filtration filters the water, making it fully treated and ready for its return to the environment.
Living off grid means making things yourself and reusing things as much as possible. This is the case with water as well. Luckily, you can reuse greywater. If you are moving into an existing home, it might not be a practical decision to re-plumb. It is always wise to work within your means. Remember, one motive for off grid living is to lessen the impact on the environment. Can you make do with what you have?
If you have the right equipment, you can safely reuse greywater and simultaneously save money, conserve water, and be more environmentally friendly.
Blackwater Sewage in Off Grid Living
One of the reasons you should process your own waste is that it is better for the environment, and consequently, healthier for you.
Here are the three most common options for dealing with your sewage:
- Septic tank system: This is a tank that separates the solids from the liquids. The liquid can then drain to a soak field/drain bed. When considering your options, you need to check with your local council to see if you can have a septic tank system.
- Sewage treatment plant system: A small-scale treatment facility, which produces fully treated effluent that is ready for release into the environment.
- Compost toilet and compost heap: A self-contained system that takes care of itself.
Off Grid Septic Systems
Septic systems use a combination of proven technology and nature to treat household waste from kitchen drains, laundry, and bathrooms.
The septic system has two components:
- A septic tank: a buried, water-tight concrete, fibreglass, or polyethylene container that separates solids and floatable matter (grease, oil) and digests organic matter. The effluent is then discharged to the field. If it is soil-based, the waste enters perforated pipes that slowly release the waste into the ground.
- A drainfield: a covered, shallow excavation in unsaturated soil. The soil soaks, treats, then disperses the wastewater into the soil, which further filters it from harmful coliform bacteria (indicator of human fecal contamination), nutrients, and viruses. It then becomes groundwater.
If you have not already begun to do so, you must consider installing a composting toilet. Composting toilets are already popular in tiny houses, RVs, boats, and off grid homes. They are safe, healthy for the environment, involve minimal effort, and can be very affordable. In fact, you can even make your own composting toilet, which oftentimes makes using the compost toilet much simpler than using one you would buy.
How Compost Toilets Work
Composting toilets are not attached to a septic or sewage system. They do not use any water, and they take care of themselves. There is no plumbing, chemicals, or flushing. They are organic and natural. So, what is the catch?
You must empty the bucket.
It is not that bad. The composting toilet does all the work for you, so emptying the bucket is like dumping out your coffee grounds.
Most composting toilets separate the solids from the liquid. This takes care of the smell. The solids fall to the back and the liquid is directed to the front. Most people empty the front tank every three days, and the back tank every three weeks. The liquids can be diluted with water and tossed onto land that you are NOT growing any food on. The solids can go in a compost bin that you are using for ornamental plants.
You do NOT want to put any human waste on any plants that you are growing for consumption. This is a recipe for disaster.
The compost toilet is an excellent way to decrease your footprint on the planet in a safe and simple fashion. You must, however, use caution with your compost and compost heap. Never use the finished compost in or near your gardens or fields where you are growing your food.
Living off the grid demands tending to all sorts of aspects of your daily life, which are usually taken care of by a local government. Getting rid of your sewage is just another part of this deal, an inevitable portion of off-the-grid life.