Emergency Services

Septic System vs Public Sewer: What’s the Difference?

septic vs sewer header

We often don’t think about our drainage systems, but they are a huge part of your home. Our drainage systems are what take our water waste out of our homes. Every time you flush a toilet or wash your hands that water waste is taken to your local water treatment plant, through our drainage systems. While there is a lot more that goes into this process, the whole thing comes down to two systems: public sewer and septic system.

So much goes into both public sewer and septic systems, that we created this graphic to help you understand the difference between the two.

septic vs sewer chart

Now let’s dive into the differences between septic and public sewer systems.

How Does it Work?


Septic Systems

Septic systems are underground water waste treatment structures. They use a combination of technology and nature to treat any organic material. The septic tank is where all the organic material is digested and all floatable material, such as oil, is separated. The liquid is then typically pumped or drained out of the tank.

Public Sewer Systems

Public sewer systems are large pipes hidden underground. Water waste is pushed through these pipes with gravity and then taken to our local water treatment center. The city takes care of our sewage system and the only way they can be accessed is through manholes and sometimes entrances found in secluded areas.

How Much Maintenance Does it Require?

two people emptying a septic tank

Septic Systems

The average household septic tank should be inspected at least every three years by a professional and should be pumped every three to five years. When you call a professional to come and inspect your tank, they’ll be looking for any leaks and examine the sludge layers. We suggest that you keep a record of the maintenance done on your septic tank and when it was last pumped.

Public Sewer Systems

There is no maintenance when it comes to public sewers. Public sewers are controlled by your city. When it comes to clogs, it can be hard to tell whether you need to take care of them or the city. Typically, if one single area is clogged, like the bathroom sink or toilet, that will most likely be your responsibility to fix and can easily be done so by calling a plumber. However, if there are multiple areas in your home being affected, then this is most likely a sewage clog and your city will need to come and remove it.

How Much Do They Cost?


Septic Systems

When considering purchasing a septic tank system, you’ll need to consider the cost of the system as well as the installation cost. The cost of a septic system depends on the size and the type. For a family of four, it is suggested to get a 1,250-gallon tank and the different types are as follows:

  • Anaerobic Septic System: This is the most common type of septic system because they don’t require any additional power or chemicals. The costs of these systems range between $2,000 and $5,000.
  • Aerobic Septic System: This system requires oxygen to function. Oxygen is pumped into the tank to activate bacteria that then feeds on any waste. These are a more expensive type of tank and can cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000
  • Conventional Septic System: This system consists of a tank and a trench that acts as a drain field. The trench is typically made out of stone to allow water to pass through it. This system can cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.
  • Gravity Septic System: This system needs to be installed on a small hill to work. It uses gravity for filtration and water flow. This system can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000
  • Chamber Septic System: This is similar to a conventional septic system, but instead a plastic container is used instead of a drain field. These are easier to construct and have a smaller carbon footprint. The cost of this system can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.

Public Sewer Systems

The cost of the public sewer system is dependent on the location you are in. Some areas will combine the cost of water and sewage, while others will separate the costs. If you’re looking to add additional sewer lines, the average cost is $50 to $250 per linear foot. In Utah, additional sewer lines cost an additional $105 per linear foot.

Man hole cover

What Are The Benefits?


Septic Systems

As a homeowner, you may be considering switching your plumbing system to a septic system. One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is making sure that your plumbing is up to par. Some of the advantages to owning a septic system are:

  • They’re environmentally friendly
  • They’re more economical in the long run
  • Have a long life expectancy
  • Fewer ongoing costs
  • Low maintenance

Public Sewer Systems

A majority of homeowners prefer public sewer systems because of the fact they aren’t going to be held responsible for any of the repairs. While this is a nice advantage, there are more to using a public sewer system.

  • They can carry more water waste
  • No maintenance is required
  • No installation required
  • There is only a monthly cost, no additional costs

Which is Better?

Ultimately, both public sewer and septic systems can benefit your home greatly and you should make the decision based on what works best for you.

Here at Shamrock Plumbing, we are plumbing experts. If you’re considering installing a septic tank system or have questions about which plumbing system is right for your home, contact us today and we’d be happy to help!

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