The Key Differences Between Domestic & Industrial Wastewater Treatment

While many people may use the term “wastewater” to talk about any and every type of polluted water, there are a number of categorisations within the overall umbrella of “wastewater,” and these classifications will generally be determined by the source of the wastewater as well as its composition, e.g. household wastewater (excluding the toilet) is usually referred to as greywater, whereas wastewater produced by specific industries as part of their manufacturing processes will be referred to broadly as “industrial wastewater,” however, it’s one of the more toxic types of wastewater.

As there is a huge range of man-made and organic substances that may be present in industrial wastewater, specialised treatment plants (and industrial wastewater treatment companies more generally) need to engineer a unique treatment system for every site. Even within the same industry, products will have varying levels of similar ingredients which can create complications as there is no one-size-fits-all option. Furthermore, as manufacturing processes become more sophisticated and practices evolve, the substances present in the wastewater may change – meaning the wastewater treatment plants will need to evolve to meet ever-changing standards and regulations. This is especially important for meeting environmental sustainability targets as well as ensuring community safety. 

Here are some of the key differences between domestic and industrial wastewater treatment:

Scale and Volume

Industrial wastewater treatment companies will usually handle large-scale operations, such as management of byproducts from the food and beverage industry or mining and steelworks industry. These processes often produce a wide range of pollutants including chemicals, heavy metals, and organic compounds – often in much higher concentrations than what we are accustomed to in nature, making them highly toxic. Industrial wastewater treatment plants will therefore need to have the system capacity to handle high flow rates as well as complex wastewater steams compositing of solids, liquids, and gases all dissolved or suspended in the wastewater. 

On the other hand, domestic wastewater treatment companies primarily deal with wastewater generated by residential and commercial establishments, which tends to be on a much smaller scale and less dangerous. However, although the volumes of wastewater may be lower, the plants will still need to process (and successfully remove) a range of organic and inorganic matter from the streams including viruses and bacteria which is critical for maintaining sanitation and preventing the breakout of disease.

Treatment Technologies

Due to the diverse and complex nature of the pollutants in industrial wastewater, treatment companies need to be able to analyse the wastewater as well as provide a bespoke treatment solution in line with local regulations (which we’ll discuss in the next point!). For example, LAT Water is a pioneer in the wastewater treatment industry and to date has received 11 international patents. We are also the first company in the world to develop wastewater separation technologies that utilise waste heat as an energy input and enable our wastewater treatment plants to operate at lower temperatures and pressures than any other modern solution.

As for domestic wastewater, treatment technologies typically involve primary treatment (physical processes like sedimentation and screening), secondary treatment (biological processes like activated sludge or trickling filters), and sometimes tertiary treatment (advanced processes like disinfection or nutrient removal). This is usually sufficient for effectively treating wastewater without the need for bespoke wastewater treatment solutions at every location. 

Regulations & Compliance

As we briefly mentioned above, industrial wastewater treatment companies face stringent regulations due to the potentially hazardous and toxic nature of the contaminants present in industrial wastewater. Compliance with environmental regulations is therefore vital to keep pollution levels low and protect vulnerable ecosystems. Companies must also adhere to specific discharge limits, monitoring requirements, and reporting obligations set by regulatory bodies or face fines

This is actually an area where domestic wastewater treatment companies and industrial wastewater treatment companies are very similar, as they too also have regulatory obligations they must comply with. The difference, however, is that the regulations domestic wastewater companies must abide by are more focused on ensuring public health and sanitation.

Expertise and Specialisation

The area where domestic and industrial wastewater treatment companies differ the most is specialisation. Industrial wastewater treatment companies will usually possess more varied knowledge due to the complexities of their day-to-day operations and the range of industries they work with, whereas domestic wastewater treatment companies will be highly focused on their niche. Alongside this, industrial wastewater treatment companies will usually have bigger teams of experts including engineers, chemists, environmental and pollution specialists, and more.

Domestic wastewater treatment companies, however, will have more targeted knowledge of the type of infrastructure that is required for the most efficient and reliable treatment process across different types of residential and commercial settings, and will typically work in more urban settings (whereas industrial wastewater treatment companies will be more focused on rural areas).

Domestic and industrial wastewater treatment companies both have very distinct roles in maintaining environmental sustainability but are equally important in keeping communities safe. The key differences lie in the scale and volume of wastewater, the location and size of treatment plants, and the broadness of expertise shared by the teams. Understanding these differences is crucial for selecting the appropriate wastewater treatment solutions that align with specific needs, whether for industrial or domestic applications. By working together, these companies contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment for everyone.

Contact The LAT Water Team

For all queries to do with industrial wastewater treatment, you can contact our team on +44 (0)1635 635900 or by emailing Download our corporate brochure for more details about our sustainable wastewater treatment solutions and check out the rest of our blog for more insights into the work that we do.

Elias Elia
07th Jul 2023