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Wastewater is water after it has been used in a variety of applications[1]: 1  usually leaching, flushing, or washing away wastes from locations those wastes were generated or placed.[2] A more detailed definition for wastewater is "Used water from any combination of domestic, industrial, commercial or agricultural activities, surface runoff/ stormwater, and any sewer inflow or sewer infiltration".[3]: 175 

In every day usage, wastewater is commonly a synonym for:

  • Sewage (also called domestic wastewater or municipal wastewater) which is wastewater that is produced by a community of people. It is typically transported through a sewer system (also called sewerage).[3]: 175 : 10 

The generic term may also be used to describe water containing contaminants in other settings, such as:

  • Industrial wastewater, water-borne waste generated from a variety of industrial processes, such as manufacturing operations, mineral extraction, power generation, or water and wastewater treatment.
    • Cooling water, released with potential thermal pollution after use to condense steam or reduce machinery temperatures by conduction or evaporation
  • Leachate, precipitation containing pollutants dissolved while percolating through ores, raw materials, products, or solid waste
  • Return flow, carrying suspended soil, pesticide residues, or dissolved minerals and nutrients from irrigated cropland
  • Surface runoff, the flow of water occurring on the ground surface when excess rainwater, stormwater, meltwater, or other sources, can no longer sufficiently rapidly infiltrate in the soil.


  1. ^ Wastewater engineering : treatment and reuse. George Tchobanoglous, Franklin L. Burton, H. David Stensel, Metcalf & Eddy (4th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill. 2003. ISBN 0-07-041878-0. OCLC 48053912.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ Camp, Thomas R. (1946). "Design of Sewers to Facilitate Flow". Sewage Works Journal. 18: 3–16.
  3. ^ a b Tilley, E., Ulrich, L., Lüthi, C., Reymond, Ph., Zurbrügg, C. (2014). Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies – (2nd Revised ed.). Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), Duebendorf, Switzerland. ISBN 978-3-906484-57-0. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)