Private Sewage Disposal Systems

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Safe Environmental Habits and Procedures for: Home Owners, Business Owners

The Problem

The Cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County is responsible for making sure that water bodies are not affected by activities of residents and businesses within the Truckee Meadows, and are pollution free.

Sample tests of run-off water taken regularly at outfalls to the Truckee River, too often, result in high levels of bacterial content that exceed safe water contact recreation, especially during rainy weather.

One potential source of bacteria in the watershed are malfunctioning sewage disposal systems. Septic tank failures have been documented on private properties in the Truckee Meadows area.

The following information is a reminder on how to maintain a private sewage disposal system - and keep our environment clean.


A septic tank is the first stage of a private sewage disposal system. The septic tank is a water-tight tank below ground and is usually made of concrete and sometimes of fiberglass or steel. It usually has one or two access ports a few inches below ground.

The tank receives household wastewater through an inlet pipe near the top of one side, settles out larger material to the bottom, breaks down waste material with in situ bacteria, and delivers the partially treated wastewater out another pipe on the other side to the disposal field via a distribution box.

A disposal field is the second stage of the private sewage disposal system and completes the final breakdown of the wastewater with organisms in the soil.

The disposal field consists of narrow trenches filled with gravel and perforated pipes that distribute the wastewater to the field. With proper maintenance, a well designed system should last indefinitely; however, disposal field soils will normally clog if forced to handle the large particles that should settle out in the bottom of the septic tank.

Routine pumping of the septic tank is imperative to avoid thousands of dollars in replacement costs of the disposal field.