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The following conditions are favourable for the disposal of raw or untreated sewage by dilution:

(i) Where sewage is comparatively fresh, i.e., it is discharged within 4 to 5 hours of its production.
(ii) Where the floating matter and the settle able solids have been removed from the sewage to be
discharged.
(iii) Where the water body has large volume of water in comparison to the volume of the sewage to
be discharged.
(iv) Where it is possible to thoroughly mix or diffuse sewage through diluting water.
(v) Where diluting water has high content of dissolved oxygen (DO).
(vi) Where swift forward currents are available in diluting water so that sewage is easily carried
away to the point of unlimited dilution. On the other hand, slow back currents tend to cause
sedimentation, resulting in large sludge deposits.
(vii) Where the natural water body having large volumes of water is available in near vicinity.
(viii) Where the water body is not to be used as source of water supply for at least some reasonable
distance on the downstream from the point of sewage disposal.
(ix) Where sewage does not contain industrial sewage having toxic substances
(x) Where the water body is not to be used for the purpose of navigation for at least some
reasonable distance on the downstream from the point of sewage disposal.

Disposal by land treatment


In this method, the raw sewage or the partly treated sewage is applied on land. A part of sewage
evaporates and the remaining portion percolates through the ground and is caught by the
underground drains for disposal into natural waters. The sewage adds to the fertilizing value of land
and crops can be profitably raised on such land. The term sewage farming is also sometimes used
for indicating disposal of sewage by land treatment.

Conditions favourable for land treatment


 The area of land treatment is composed of sandy, loamy or alluvial soils. Such soils are easily
aerated and it is easy to maintain aerobic conditions in them
 The depth of water table is more even in rainy season so that there are no chances of pollution of
underground water sources by land treatment
 The rainfall in the area is low as it will assist in maintaining good absorption capacity of soil
 There is absence of river or other natural water sources in the vicinity of disposal of sewage
 There is demand for cash crops which can be easily grown on sewage farms
 There is availability of large open areas in the surrounding locality for practicing broad irrigation
by sewage

The disposal of sewage by land treatment may be accomplished in the following three ways:
(1) Irrigation or sewage farming: Irrigation involves the controlled discharge of sewage to the
land to support plant growth (Fig.). Besides the disposal of sewage, this method may help to
increase crop yield. This is so because sewage generally contains a lot of fertilising elements
such as nitrogen, phosphate, potash, etc., which add to the fertility of the soil. However, the
sewage effluent before being used for irrigation must be made safe. This method is adopted
when percolation rate is 2-6 mm/min.
(2) Overland flow: Overland flow involves the controlled discharge of sewage onto land having a
slope of 2 to 8 per cent, where it flows in a thin layer down the grade and appears as runoff
(Fig.) which is collected and disposed of. This method is adopted when the land is relatively
impermeable. The land is generally planted with a grass cover crop to provide a habitat for
micro-organisms, to serve as a living filter, and to prevent erosion. This method is adopted when
percolation rate is less than 2 mm/min.
(3) Rapid infiltration or Infiltration-percolation: Rapid infiltration or infiltration-percolation
involves the application of sewage to spreading basins, where it is allowed to percolate down to
the groundwater (Fig.). Thus besides sewage disposal this method is useful for groundwater
recharge. To be effective, the underlying soils must be highly permeable. In order to maintain an
adequate infiltration capacity, the basins are operated on an intermittent basis. The operating and
resting period may vary from a few days up to six months. This method is adopted when
percolation rate is less than 6-25 mm/min.

Sewage can be applied by the following three methods of irrigation:


(a) Sprinkler or spray irrigation;
(b) Sub-surface irrigation; and
(c) Surface irrigation.
(a) Sprinkler or Spray Irrigation:
In this method, sewage is spread over the land through nozzles which are fitted at the tips of pipes.
Sewage is sprinkled under pressure and the process can also be used for watering gardens and lawns.
Hydrants for the supply of sewage under pressure may be located at suitable intervals so as to cover
the entire field. This method of sewage application is useful for sandy soils and also for hilly land
having steep slopes.

(b) Sub-Surface Irrigation:


In this method, sewage is supplied directly to the root zone of plants through a system of
underground pipes with open joints. Sewage, as it flows through these pipes, percolates through the
open joints, and it is distributed in the surrounding area through the capillary action.
This method is useful for places where rainfall is poor and demand for irrigation is high and subsoil
water level is low. It entails less loss of water due to evaporation and absorption. However, this
method is costly and it gives fewer yields of crops. Hence, it is not generally adopted in practice.

(c) Surface Irrigation:


In this method, sewage is applied directly on the land.
This method is widely adopted in practice and its different modes of application are as follows:
 Basin method;
 Flooding method; and
 Furrow method

The selection of the method of sewage application will depend on crops to be raised, characteristics
of soil, topography of country and quantity of available sewage.

(i) Basin Method: In this method, basins are constructed around the plants and they are filled by
sewage. The sewage slowly percolates to the root zone of plants and maintains the root zone in moist
or damp condition. This method is useful for orchards or gardens of fruit trees.
(ii) Flooding Method: In this method the land is divided into rectangular plots of convenient
dimensions. Sewage is distributed over these plots to a depth of 30 cm to 60 cm. Subsoil drain pipes
are provided to supply air to the soil and to remove the percolated effluent through the soil.
(iii) Furrow Method: In this method, furrows and ridges are formed. Furrows are very small ditches
having depth of about 30 to 50 cm and width of about 120 to 150 cm. Ridges have length of about 15
to 30 m and width of about 120 to 250 cm.
Furrows are filled with sewage to about two-third of their depth. Sewage from two adjoining furrows
percolates from their sides and beds and thus causes saturation of root zones of plants which are
grown on the ridges. Subsoil drain pipes are provided to collect percolated effluent and lead it to
nearby natural waters for disposal. This method is useful when sewage is not to be kept in contact
with beds of crops.

Sub-surface method Flooding method Furrow method


Broad irrigation and sewage farming
The surface irrigation is also known as broad irrigation or effluent irrigation. Broad irrigation is
similar to sewage farming, but the purposes of the two are different.
In sewage farming prime consideration is the successful growing of the crops while in broad
irrigation the prime consideration is the successful disposal of sewage. However, in both the cases
the ultimate result is the same i.e., crop is raised and at the same time sewage is disposed of by land
application. In sewage farming raw sewage is not used and it is necessary to remove the ingredients
which may prove harmful and toxic to the crops grown. On the other hand in broad irrigation raw or
settled sewage is applied on vacant land which is provided underneath with a system of properly laid
under drains. These under drains, usually consist of 15 to 20 cm diameter, porous pipes laid with
open joints at a spacing of 12 to 30 cm. The effluent collected in these drains after getting filtered
through the soil pores is generally small (as a large quantity gets evaporated) and well stabilized, and
can be easily disposed of into a natural water body without any further treatment. However, in
general, for all practical purposes, both the terms viz., broad irrigation and sewage farming are used
as synonyms, and both means use of sewage effluents for irrigating crops.

The Indian Standard IS: 3307- 1977 recommends the hydraulic loading rates or dosage of settled
industrial sewage effluents applicable for different types of soils, which are given in Table. These
loading rates should also take into account the nature of crop and its water requirements, climatic
conditions and frequency of application.

The extent of land area required for disposing of a certain volume of sewage effluent can be worked
out from the values given in Table above. Further in order to regulate disposal of industrial sewage
effluents on land for irrigation it is necessary to limit certain constituents in effluents, especially
those considered toxic, so that the effluent may comply with normally accepted irrigation water
quality. With this objective in view Bureau of Indian Standards (formerly known as Indian Standards
Institution (ISI)) has laid down certain tolerance limits for industrial effluents discharged on land for
irrigation purposes in the Indian Standard IS: 3307-1977 and the same are indicated in Table below.
Sewage Sickness:
When sewage is applied continuously on a piece of land, pores or voids of the soil get filled up or
clogged, thereby free circulation of air is prevented and anaerobic conditions develop. At this stage,
the land is unable to take any further sewage load, and due to anaerobic decomposition of organic
matter foul smelling noxious gases are produced. This phenomenon of soil is known as sewage
sickness of land. Sewage sickness of land can be prevented by adopting the following measures.

(i) Pretreatment of Sewage: Sewage should be applied on land only after giving primary treatment
such as screening, grit removal and sedimentation. This will help in removing settle able solids and
reducing BOD load by 30% or so, and hence soil pores will not get clogged quickly.
(ii) Provision of Extra Land: There should be ample provision of extra land so that the land with
sewage sickness can be given the desired rest. However, if extra land is not available then there
should be an alternative arrangement for the disposal of sewage when sewage farms are taking rest.
(iii) Drainage of Soil: Subsoil drain pipes with open joints should be laid to collect the percolating
effluent. This will minimize the possibility of sewage sickness.
(iv) Proper Choice of Land: The land chosen for this purpose should be sandy or loamy, having
higher permeability. Clayey soil should be avoided.
(v) Rotation of Crops: Sewage sickness can be reduced by growing different crops in rotation
instead of growing single type of crop. This will help in utilizing different fertilizing elements of
sewage and help in aeration of soil.
(vi) Shallow Depth Application: Sewage should be applied in shallow depths. If sewage is applied
in greater depths, chances of sewage sickness are increased. The depth of sewage on land should be
carefully decided by keeping in view the climatic conditions, drainage facilities, nature of crops and
characteristics of soil.
(vii) Intermittent Application: Sewage should be applied on land at intervals. The period between
successive applications depends on general working of sewage farm and the permeability of soil.
Depending on the nature of soil, this period between successive applications varies from few hours to
few weeks.
(viii) Treatment of land: The land affected by sewage sickness should be properly treated before it
is put up in use again. Clogged soil should be broken up by suitable equipment.

Advantages of land treatment


1. It increases the fertility of land
2. It is cheap where land is available in plenty
3. Application of sewage on land is the best method of supplying manure to the soil
4. Crops grown on land treated with sewage possess high calorific value and more vitamins.
5. The method becomes very much useful at places where disposal of sewage by dilution is not
possible.
6. The method does not require costly equipment for its working.
7. The method proves economical and safe where available irrigation water is scarce in quantity

Disadvantages of land treatment


1. If proper precautions are not taken, nuisance developed by sewage farming may lead to possible
dangers to the health of men. It is therefore, necessary that the sewage farms should be operated
under skilled technical supervision
2. Crops grown on sewage farms are generally not liked by ordinary public
3. The method is not applicable for all the seasons of year. In monsoon, some other arrangement of
sewage disposal has to be found out.
4. The method requires large area of land which may not be available in some cases.
5. Types of crops grown on sewage treated land are limited in number.