TWM Contributor: Elke Boyd, PE, BCEE

Date: January 2021

What You Should Know About Land Application of Wastewater

Does your community use a lagoon system or small mechanical plant for wastewater treatment? Are new and tightening permit limits squeezing your resources? You are not alone. In Missouri, 25% of construction permits in 2019 were issued for conversion of lagoons to no-discharge land application systems. This is no wonder, as land application is perhaps the cheapest and easiest to operate methods of wastewater treatment out there. It is also currently the most resilient to permit changes.

Is Land Application the Right Treatment For My Community?
Land application is particularly attractive to small communities and wastewater generators faced with regulatory challenges. TWM will consider client preferences, local site conditions, existing storage capacity, space constraints, availability of suitable land, soil permeability, leased versus wholly-owned sites, single-phase versus three-phase electricity, funding environment, user charges, and more.

What Land Application Options are Available?
TWM has the experience to guide you through several choices. The most important decisions include:

  1. Should the wastewater irrigation occur on a leased or owned site?
  2. What application method is right for us?
  3. What is the funding source?

1. Selection of the Wastewater Irrigation Site

TWM staff has been exposed to many systems that lease their land application site from a farmer or other nearby landowner. With carefully crafted leases this can be a good model for your system. However, ownership of the site will allow the utility full control over application periods.

There are countless options for locating the site. Our staff have used an undesired strip between the highway and railroad tracks, wooded areas, grazing land, farm fields, golf courses, even land in CRP. The simplest and cheapest option is usually pasture land with cool season grasses. Keeping irrigation rates low will prevent runoff and simplify operations.

2. Selection of Application Method

Based on TWM’s experience, surface application is typically the best choice for community systems. Center pivots, fixed sprinklers or travelling guns each have their place. Pivots are best on large flat areas. Sprinklers will be great on most any site, whether oddly shaped, sloped or wooded. Travelling guns are cheap and versatile for small areas, but also labor intensive.

3. Funding Your System Conversion

TWM understands that most wastewater decisions come down to the bottom line. For communities of all sizes, it is ultimately the user rates that play a deciding role. The good news is that the appraised value of the land purchase will be eligible for SRF, CDBG and RD grants and low interest loans. With O&M for land application being one of the lowest for any wastewater treatment system, land application is high on the list of choices for any rural permit holder.

We invite you to talk to our experienced professionals about your wastewater options, both from a technical as well as a financial standpoint.

Find out more about TWM’s Water Infrastructure Services.  

Exceptional Service. Nothing Less.

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