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How to manage sewage drainage when living off-grid

Posted on January 24, 2019

Living off-grid or simply trying to live more ecologically and economically comes with a variety of challenges as you rely less on public, municipal systems. Creating clean energy is usually a dominating concern, but something as fundamental as off-grid waste treatment should be given equal consideration.

You’ve probably not given much thought as to how a normal sewage system works – it’s a classic case of out of sight, out of mind – but when you live off-grid, you’ll have to consider how you’ll manage, treat and dispose of sewage and wastewater. Let’s take a look at some of the options open to you.

Septic tank and drainage field

septic tank half buried in ground

A septic tank is a common choice for sewage treatment in homes which aren’t connected to mains sewage. This is a contained tank which is usually buried underground into which your wastewater and sewage will flow. Sewage will flow in and, within the septic tank, solids sink to the bottom, light waste will float on top to form a crust and wastewater will remain between these layers. Septic tanks will require periodic emptying – roughly annually – to rid the tank of sludge and solids.

The wastewater, now free of significant solids, will now flow out of the septic tank and into an adjoined drainage field. A drainage field comprises of a series of perforated pipes through which the wastewater will slowly seep out of, into a gravel bed and soil below. This gradual percolation of the wastewater allows aerobic bacteria to break down remaining impurities, ensuring the water is sufficiently filtered to be released back into the environment.

Sewage treatment plant

Sewage treatment plants are like a miniature, off-grid version of a municipal sewage treatment plant. These systems will clean your sewage and wastewater much more efficiently and to a higher degree than a septic tank and drainage field, meaning water can be discharged straight into watercourses. What’s more, drainage fields can take up quite a large area so if you don’t have the space for one, a sewage treatment plant may be a better option.

A sewage treatment plant will have 3 stages: the first stage is like a septic tank where solids sink out of wastewater; the second stage involves aerating water so aerobic bacteria can thrive and breakdown and solid waste particles; the third stage involves another settlement chamber so any fine sludge particles and dead aerobic bacteria can sink out of the water which is then clean enough to be discharged.


There are many different makes and models of both septic tank and sewage treatment plant available, each suited to different requirements and ideal for off-grid living. The team at Wildon UK are experts in sewage treatment and drainage and can advise you on different potential systems. For further information, don’t hesitate to contact our helpful and experienced team today – we operate across the UK.

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