By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue
Adapting sanitation systems to a fast-changing ecological reality is a challenge not only for big municipal institutions. According to new research, many septic systems — which are simple, backyard devices for addressing the ceaseless problem of toilet waste — are unfit for future climate conditions. Because of a higher water table linked to higher sea levels, conventional septic systems near the coast will not be as effective at removing harmful bacteria and nutrients.
“We really need to start thinking about how to install these systems now before they become a huge issue for pathogens and nutrients in water,” Jennifer Cooper, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida, told Circle of Blue.Cooper would know. She is the lead author on the first academic study to assess how coastal septic systems will fare in a warming world. The peer-reviewed study was published online earlier this month in the journal PLoS ONE. The diminished capacity of septic systems to filter waste, she says, is another disruptive consequence of a changing climate that regulators and homeowners ought to confront.
There will be much work opportunities ahead for risk management!