Wastewater terminology is so important to become familiar with. Not only does it empower you to say the words, it makes you dive a little deeper into understanding them.

With that in mind, we’ve created a (layman’s) Wastewater Terminology page for you here. It’s a live page we want to keep adding to with your help. Got a term you don’t understand and even when looking it up, don’t see why you should care about it or how it pertains to you?

We’re here to help.

Got a term you want defined so that you better understand it? Reach out here!

Let’s start with these and keep building:

Phosphorus: Periodic table element with symbol P. Derived from rocks in the form of phosphate. Essential for life in all organisms as an important component of DNA, RNA, ATP and phospholipids. One of three primary plant nutrients (NPK: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) required for crops and food production. P is the key limiting nutrient in freshwater lakes and ponds contributing to overgrowth and harmful blooms of algae and cyanobacteria.

Nitrogen: Periodic table element with symbol N. A colorless, odorless, inert gas, that constitutes 78 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere (as N2). One of three primary plant nutrients (NPK: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) required for crops and food production. A significant contributor to water pollution (about 80% entering in the form of urine as urea)  and converting into ammonia, nitrate and back to nitrogen gas in wastewater treatment processes. Considered the key limiting nutrient in coastal marine waters causing harmful algal blooms and low oxygen “dead zones” devoid of marine life.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL):  An environmental regulatory threshold indicating the maximum amount of a particular pollutant that a water body can sustain without degradation of water quality and adverse effects on habitat value. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is responsible for making sure towns meet their TMDL requirements in watersheds that have been deemed as polluted or impaired. Pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorus and bacteria are commonly addressed with TMDLs.

Watershed: A delineated (outlined) area of land that drains into a specific surface water body such as a lake, pond, bay or estuary. Any water and pollutants applied to the land surface as rain, snowmelt, or irrigation within a certain watershed will travel downhill along the land surface and/or absorb into the ground and eventually make its way into the surface water associated with that particular watershed. For example, all water and water pollution in the Waquoit Bay watershed will eventually make its way into Waquoit Bay. Water traveling along the land surface is called stormwater runoff. Water traveling below the land surface is called groundwater. Both surface runoff and groundwater travel toward the surface water body within that water body’s watershed area.