water pipe

What is the difference between a sewer line and a water line?

This topic seems like common sense to a trained and licensed plumber, but remembering back to our first days of apprenticeship training, maybe not so much to the novice.

In the plumbing industry, pipes are called “conveyances”.  This is because the move or “convey” liquids and solids from one point to another.

SEWER LINES

Sewers are meant to convey waste in any form from a point where it is not wanted to a place where it can be treated or disposed of. In your home the sewer lines are referred to as “building drains” and outside the home as “house drains”.  For our purposes in this article we’ll just stick with “sewers”.

Your sewer pipes convey anything classified as solid waste or grey water waste to either to a public sewage treatment plant or to a private sewage treatment system such as a septic system. They can be made of many different materials including cast iron, galvanized, steel, PVC plastic, ABS Plastic, vitrified clay,  and many more.

So what is waste?  The most obvious to most folks is water and waste from a toilet. Also, dirty dishwater from the kitchen sink.  Other less obvious forms of waste is discharge from the washing machine or water from washing paint tools in a laundry tub.  Or from a shower or lavatory drain.

All of these different types of waste water can be classified as sewage and are required by State Plumbing Codes  to be transmitted for treatment by the sewer lines.   

One important distinction is waste water classified as “clear water waste”.  This would be water created by air conditioners, in line humidifiers, coil coolers and the like.  In the states we service these wastes do not need to be treated and therefor do not have to be disposed of in a sewer line.  These may be directed to a sump or other ground water collection system and discharged directly back into the storm water drainage system.

WATER LINES

Water lines on the other hand are a much more “pleasant” topic.   Referred to in the trade as “potable water lines” these pipes convey clean water from private wells or municipal suppliers to and throughout your home or building. Municipal supplied water will generally include a water meter at the point at which it enters the building.  A private well system will have a pressure tank and switch where the water enters the building.

These lines must be protected from contamination and cross-connection to the sewer lines.  Much of what your State Licensed Master Plumber does is related to this topic.  Hence the saying “The plumber protects the health of the nation”. 

There are many ways the sewer and water lines can be crossed, but that is a lengthy topic not covered by this article.  To insure this never happens in your building you should always insist on seeing the State Plumbing License of any individual plumber sent to work on your plumbing system.  Each plumber has his own license, not to be confused with the plumbing Contractor’s license.  Those are two separate things.

Water lines in general direct water in your home to places where it is needed and useful.  Like sinks for washing hands and dishes, water heaters, hose faucets for watering, faucets for drinking and cooking,  and, of course, toilets for flushing waste.

Water lines and fittings come in many different materials, all of which have to be approved by the state plumbing code authorities.  Examples of materials are copper, brass, plastics such as pex or polyethylene, galvanized steel, stainless steel,  or combinations of materials.  Of course, products containing lead or other hazardous substances are prohibited and cannot be installed by a licensed plumber.  

An important point to note here is that the state laws protecting the potable (safe) water in your home or building depend upon the use of a State Licensed Plumber.  There are large numbers of products available in home centers and hardware stores which do NOT conform to code and in some cases can actually increase the likelihood of contamination of your building water supply. 

The law protects you from such products by requiring that plumbing is only done by State Licensed plumbers.  In what might seem like a weird quirk, It is NOT illegal for a store to sell non-code approved (illegal) plumbing materials.  A licensed plumber would know the issues with these materials and would never think about installing them in your home, therefore you and your water system are  protected  in this way.

If you need the help of a licensed plumber for minor or major repairs, sewer rodding, or any installation of any faucets or fixtures, give us a call at Yes! Plumbing 24/7.  It will be our pleasure to be of service!