Proper Septic Sizing: Why Bigger Really Is Better

The state of Texas is experiencing a massive influx of new residents. According to Forbes magazine, 395,000 people move to Texas annually. The rapid expansion of the state’s population leads to remarkable growth in rural and suburban areas. With this growth, there is no more important time to spotlight the need for proper “septic system” sizing.

What are minimum flow rates and why do they matter to me?

The state of Texas mandates that residential “septic systems” be sized according to a minimum flow rate based on the living area of the home and the number of bedrooms. However, there is an often-overlooked statement associated with “septic system” sizing in the regulatory standard, and it says, “Actual water usage data or other methods of calculating wastewater usage rates may be used by the system designer if it is accurate and acceptable to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or its authorized agents. If actual water use records are greater than the usage rates in this table, the system shall be designed for the higher flow.”

What this means to you is that if your family consumes more water than the flow rates set forth in the standard, your “septic system” shall be designed to accommodate your lifestyle. This makes so much sense; after all, if you are investing in a piece of equipment to perform a task, you should desire that equipment to adequately perform the task it is prescribed to perform.

You might ask, what are the results of a “septic system” that is not properly sized for the residents’ needs?

First and foremost, by investing in a properly sized “septic system” from the outset can save money over the long term. Undersized “septic systems” will typically require frequent maintenance, repairs, or premature replacement, leading to higher costs over time. Proper sizing minimizes these expenses and ensures efficient operation.  It is the old adage, “Pay for it now or pay for it later, but you are going to pay for it.”

Secondly, a “septic system” that is not properly sized has the potential to become an environmental hazard.  An undersized system may lead to untreated or poorly treated sewage contaminating groundwater, surface water, and soil, posing risks to the local ecosystem.  We only have one water supply, and we all share an equal responsibility to protect it. A properly sized “septic system” is an easy way for you to do your part.

Third, inadequate treatment of sewage can result in the spread of waterborne diseases and pathogens, endangering the health of the public.  A properly sized “septic system” reduces the risk of contamination and helps maintain sanitary conditions.  Certainly, you would hope your neighbor’s “septic system” is properly sized in order to protect the health of your family! I assure you, your neighbor desires the same from you.  This is but a small part we can all play in looking out for the well-being of our neighbor, which reminds me of some beautiful words spoken so many years ago, “Love your neighbor as yourself>”-Jesus

Fourth, legal compliance is always a potential concern with an undersized “septic system.” After all, an improperly functioning “septic system” can lead to nuisance complaints at the local authorized agent.  When they get these calls, they are required to investigate them.  The outcome of these calls can lead to fines, penalties, and legal consequences, as well as the potential requirement for the “septic system” to be upgraded or replaced to meet your household demands.  This takes us all the way back to point number one, related to the increased cost of operation.

The benefits of a properly sized septic system

It would be a disservice for me to take a strictly fear-based approach, so let’s examine some of the benefits of a properly sized “septic system.”

First, a well-functioning “septic system” is essential to a property’s infrastructure.  A properly sized “septic system” that operates efficiently enhances property value and its marketability.  This is very important when the time comes for you to sell your home. On the flip side, an undersized, poorly functioning “septic system” can decrease property value and deter potential buyers.  The last thing you need when you are looking to sell your home are buyers who are distracted by a septic system that looks like a potential expense for them.

Secondly, knowing that your “septic system” is properly sized and functioning properly provides peace of mind to you, the homeowner, and the user of the “septic system.” Properly sized and functioning “septic systems” reduce the risk of back-ups, failure, immediate budget issues, and health hazards, allowing homeowners to focus on other aspects of home ownership with reduced worry about sewage-related issues.

In closing, the proper sizing of a “septic system” is crucial for protecting your investment, preserving the environment, looking out for public health, keeping you out of the sights of compliance enforcement officers, and providing peace of mind for you, the user.  It takes very little effort to ensure a “septic system” is properly sized for the user, and the benefits of doing so far outweigh the costs of not.

Luke Snyder, 2024