University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

CEE 484 Decentralized and Onsite Wastewater Management and Reuse

Technology, Ecology, Policy and Appropriate Solutions

Spring Quarter 2007

3 credits

MWF 12:30 – 1:20

More Hall, Room #230



Linda S. Gaulke

333 More Hall


Office hours: W 10:30-11:30

(also by appointment)


H. David Stensel

303 More Hall


Office hours: MF 2:30-3:30

(also by appointment)


Onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment is a global concern. In the United States 25 percent of our wastewater treatment needs are fulfilled through onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment. Although the United States Environmental Protection Agency considers onsite and decentralized systems to be viable, long-term solutions, many systems are not yet adequately designed or maintained resulting in adverse environmental impacts. In contrast to the high level of sanitation and wastewater treatment experienced by areas such as the United States, Europe and Japan, 2.6 billion individuals worldwide live without any form of adequate sanitation. As engineers we have much to learn from the international community’s approaches, solutions and technologies for onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment, as well as having much to offer. Solutions for the development of environmentally sound onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment to protect human and environmental health will require engineers who are both able to understand and benefit from an international exchange of ideas.

This course has been designed to provide students with fundamentals of onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment and experience with real-world applications both in the United States and abroad. The course will start out by building student's knowledge and understanding of onsite and decentralized technologies, ecological impacts and policies and how these are applied in engineering designs. The final three weeks of the quarter will then be spent applying this knowledge in group application projects that are focused on real-world, global problems. Throughout the quarter student participation will be emphasized through discussions, problem solving, and working on open-ended problems. Learning is enhanced when applied to problems that do not have a single defined solution, helping students deepen their understanding of a subject matter and better develop engineering design skills that will be needed in their professional lives. Learning in this way will require the students and instructors to actively engage in the learning process and will also be more interesting and rewarding.


By the end of this course students should be able to:

Objective 1: Identify, define and be familiar with testing and reporting methods for: key wastewater characteristics; environmental impacts of wastewater; public health concerns associated with wastewater; current treatment technologies; and different wastewater streams.

Objective 2: Locate and interpret existing policies and regulations for onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment. Distinguish important aspects of policies and regulations relative to designing and operating an onsite or decentralized system.

Objective 3: Explain basic elements of a site evaluation that are critical for onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment systems.

Objective 4: Provide details of basic elements, design criteria and mechanisms of removal for different onsite and decentralized treatment and conveyance processes.

Objective 5: Determine suitable operational management and maintenance schemes for onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment based on needs.

Objective 6: Determine key design issues and factors that are important for the successful implementation of onsite and decentralized treatment technologies based on the desired effluent treatment level and effluent recycle method. Compare and select the most appropriate technologies to meet treatment needs for a given situation.


Halpern, D. F. and Hakel, M. D., “Applying the Science of Learning”, Change, 2003, pp 37-41.

World Health Organization. Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: A Mid-Term Assessment of Progress. WHO, Geneva, 2004.