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Sewer Vs. Septic System: Which Is Right For Your New Home?

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If you are building a new home in a neighborhood where you have a choice between connecting to the community's sewer system or installing your own septic system, you probably have a lot of questions. While many people use the two terms interchangeably, there are significant differences. A sewer system is a series of drains that carries waste water from the home to a centralized tank where the water and waste must be processed before it is recycled. Septic systems are individual tanks that hold the waste from only your home. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Sewer Systems

Sewer systems serve the homes in an entire community. In urban areas, the sewer system may serve an entire city as it carries wastewater through an elaborate series of drains to whisk it away from the city. Rain and flood waters also enter the sewer system through drain holes in the street or located strategically throughout the community.


  • Sewer systems are the responsibility of the municipality.
  • Storm drains carry flood waters and excessive rainfall away from the home.
  • They require little maintenance from the homeowner.
  • You typically pay a standard fee each year for sewer services.
  • You do not have a drain or leach field to care for.


  • Chemicals and energy are needed to treat the water and may pose risks to the environment.
  • Treatment plants can overflow if they receive excessive water from flooding or if they cannot keep up with the demand of the community.
  • Sewer usage fees can be costly and can rise if the system requires major work or improvements to the treatment plants are required.

Septic Systems

Septic systems function by draining water and waste into an individual holding tank, referred to as the septic tank. These tanks can be either steel or concrete and are installed under the ground on your property. They also require a drain field, (also called a leach field) an area of soil that absorbs and filters the overflow of waste water from your septic tank.


  • There are no monthly or yearly fees associated with a septic tank.
  • You can install a septic tank in nearly any location where there is healthy soil.
  • Septic tanks are designed so that waste water overflows and is filtered naturally through the soil before it re-enters the ground water. They do not require an energy source or chemicals to treat the water, eliminating the risk of harming the environment.


  • Any problems or issues that arise with your plumbing or septic system are your responsibility.
  • Septic tanks must be emptied, or pumped, every few years.
  • You cannot build on or work the land above the septic tank or drain field.
  • Roots from nearby trees can enter your septic system if cracks develop in the pipes. This can cause major damage to the pipes and prevent the system from draining properly. Correcting the problem in your responsibility. This often requires the services of a professional plumber.
  • Septic tanks don't last forever and need to be replaced occasionally. The lifespan of your septic tank depends on the soil conditions and the material is made from. Acidic soil can deteriorate concrete, and steel can rust with years of use. Check the manufacturer's estimated life expectancy of the tank you purchase.

If you opt for a private septic system instead of connecting to the community sewer system, check with your local and state regulations for installing septic systems. You will likely need an inspection of the site to ensure that the soil will adequately drain and filter the waste water. In some instances, you may be required to add gravel to the site to improve its ability to properly handle the waste water from your home. If you still have questions about your options, click here for more info on sewer or septic services in your area and contact them to learn more.