Field Demonstration of the Combined Effects of Absorption and Evapotranspiration on Septic System Drainfield Capacity

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Drainfields for disposal of septic tank effluents are typically designed by considering the loss of water by either upward evapotranspiration into the atmosphere or lateral and downward absorption into the adjacent soil. While this approach is appropriate for evapotranspiration systems, absorption systems allow water loss by both mechanisms. It was proposed that, in areas where high evapotranspiration rates coincide with permeable soils, drainfield sizes could be substantially reduced by accounting for both mechanisms. A two-year field demonstration was conducted to determine appropriate design criteria for areas typical of the Texas High Plains. The study consisted of evaluating the long-term acceptance rates for three different drainfield configurations: evapotranspiration only, absorption only, and combined conditions. A second field demonstration repeated the experiments for additional observation of the combined evapotranspiration and absorption and achieved similar results as the first study. The field tests indicated that the current design loading criteria may be increased by at least a factor of two for the Texas High Plains region and other Texas areas with similar soil composition and evapotranspiration rates, while still retaining a factor of safety of two.

Keywords: artificial wastewater; drainfields; loading design; on-site waste disposal; septic systems

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2005

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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