15 Facts About South Florida's Sewer Systems
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Facts About South Florida’s Sewer Systems

sewer systems
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If you live in the state of Florida (especially the Southern region), you’ve experienced, read, or at least heard about the sewer systems crisis in the last few years. While it may not be a topic of conversation that’s alluring, it is vital to the quality of life and ecosystem of our estuaries, lakes, and beaches.

Read on to discover 15 facts about South Florida’s sewer systems you may not know.

4,000 Square Miles

Before understanding the sewer system, it’s important to understand the water source(s).

4,000 square miles is how big the Biscayne Aquifer is in South Florida. This aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for residents in the Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties.

It’s referred to as a surficial aquifer since it sits so close to the ground surface and is composed of porous, shallow limestone. The Biscayne Aquifer is classified as unconfined because it does not have a confining layer (like clay) on top.

This makes it susceptible to absorbing things through the ground surface like rainwater and sewer spillage.

Sheet Flow

Florida’s water follows the slope of the landscape from North to South. As Lake Okeechobee reaches the flood stage, the water overflows through the Everglades and eventually into the bay(s).

Along the way, the water flows in a sheet-like fashion. This water flow pattern provides the soil and the plants with nutrients while also providing replenishment to the Biscayne Aquifer.

Urban development of the state has altered the natural sheet flow of the water table.

Polluted Paradise

A name given to South Florida as far back as 1949, this nickname came after septic tanks started to leak. After that, waste treatment facilities were constructed.

Septic Tanks Are Uncommon In Florida

These days, they’re uncommon in Florida in part because of the issues that occurred when the area was dubbed polluted paradise. Another reason is because of the construction of the wastewater facilities and because of the small distance between the ground surface and the water beneath the ground.

Weather Plays A Big Role

Heavy rainfall causes the ground to shift to accommodate the extra moisture. In turn, pipes can shift too, sometimes causing breakages or spills.

As climate change continues, it means rising sea levels, more intense storms, more rainfall, and higher or lower temperatures that all can contribute to the deterioration of our sewer systems.

13,984 Spills

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection reports over 13,000 sewage spills between 2015 and 2020. Since 2009, there have been 23,000 total spill reports.


Gallons of sewage was spilled during this time period between 2015 and 2020.

South Florida’s Water Management District Includes

  • More than 2,000 miles of canals and levees
  • 84 pumps
  • More than 3,000 monitoring stations

Water Reuse

Water reuse is an important part of South Florida’s sewer system. When wastewater is transported to a facility, it is cleaned and then recycled.

Treated domestic wastewater is used for:

  • Irrigation
  • Car washes, toilets, and maintaining ponds/fountains
  • Creating wetlands

Septic Tanks Could See Bigger Issues by 2040

In Miami-Dade, 64% of county septic tanks are expected to have increasing issues by 2040.

The problem in this county, South Florida, and across the state is multifaceted but is, in part, because of older regulations that required only one foot of soil under a septic tank and a projected 15 inches of sea-level rise.

Deteriorating Pipes

Parts of Florida’s sewer system are some 80 years old.

The infrastructure wasn’t initially designed to last this long. Today South Florida faces a battle between aging infrastructure and climate change.

Orangeburg Pipes & Older Homes

Sewer system pipes in the 1950s were constructed of copper, galvanized steel, or Orangeburg pipe. Orangburg pipe is pressed wood fiber and coal tar and was cheaper to manufacture.

These types of pipes only have a lifespan of 30 years or so. Once PVC pipe came onto the market in the 70s, Orangeburg pipe was phased out, but in buildings and homes built before 1972, this type of sewer system line can still be found.

If you’re concerned about the state of your home (or business) sewer lines, consider pipe relining.

Population Growth Contributes

To the sewer system spillage and breakdown. Florida has the third-highest population growth in the U.S., growing at a rate of nearly 1,000 people per day.

The sustained population growth, rising sea levels, and climate change that contribute to the severity of storms have overburdened the sewer system across the state.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Extension Project

Miami-Dade County is expected to increase the treatment of wastewater capacity from 112.5 million gallons per day to 131 million gallons per day.

Water and Sewer Department (WASD)

As of 2020, WASD has multiple projects to convert septic systems to sewer systems. The projects include completing the connection of 1,000 commercial properties to sewers.

For All Your Sewer & Drain Cleaning Needs

Contact Art Rooter, Sewer, & Drain Cleaning. Help us keep South Florida’s sewer system crisis at bay. Our services include drain and sewer clearing, sewer repair, and preventative drain and sewer maintenance.

We are a team of fully licensed and insured professionals that are eager to serve South Florida’s residential, multi-family, and commercial properties. Schedule a service today or contact us at 1-833-470-2880.


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