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Op-ed: The future of wastewater



By Jeff Saad EBS Contributor

I have a solution for the ongoing storage needs for treated wastewater in Big Sky. The recent spill of wastewater into the Gallatin watershed is unfortunate, and an accident. Accidents happen.

It was a genius idea to pipe treated wastewater to irrigate golf courses, which minimizes the need to release effluent into the Gallatin River.

The issue that most concerns the Big Sky Water and Sewer District is the total volume of treated wastewater produced. We are nearing capacity and looking at massive growth ahead. The golf courses simply cannot use enough of it, so it will be dumped into the Gallatin River.

We have two choices ahead: We can build more storage facilities at huge taxpayer costs, or we can decrease the total amount of treated wastewater produced. Short of a moratorium on all growth and development, we will be dumping into the Gallatin River nonstop. It will be business as usual.


My premise is simple: it shouldn’t be cost prohibitive, provides all necessary water needs to those who need it, and reduces the amount of future treated wastewater by 70 percent.

Sewage and garbage have stomach-upsetting stigmas. However, all sewage is not the same. This plan only includes new development on the centralized water-sewer system including residences, hotels, etc., and excludes all existing structures both in the centralized system and those using well and septic systems.

Wastewater can be separated into two classes:

Blackwater – anything you use toilet paper for, and kitchen sink disposals
– human waste
– food
Greywater – everything else (shower/bath, laundry, bathroom sinks, etc.)
– hair, skin, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, cleaning products

The plan is not to use the greywater as drinking water (although you could). The plan includes sending only blackwater (30 percent) for wastewater treatment, which requires little additional storage capacity and will eventually be used for golf course irrigation. With simple, large-particle/small-particle filtration, greywater could be kept on-site for several uses:

Toilet flush water
Greenhouse (food, plants and flowers love greywater)
Irrigate landscaping (summer)
Snowmaking (winter)

With minimal filtration, greywater is relatively clean, and excess can be discarded on premise as needed and welcomed back to the ground for final filtration in the earth.


1. Reduce stress on groundwater and deep-ground aquifers
2. Increase aquifer supply
3. Reduce volume of water needing chemical treatment
4. Relieve as much as 70 percent stress on wastewater storage
5. Cessate the need for further dumping of treated wastewater
6. Less “new” water used

The key is to use the least amount of potable water by reusing semi-clean greywater for purposes that will tolerate it.

This proposal is simply an exercise in plumbing rerouting. We can set the standard in resort water management.

For the last three years, Jeff Saad has lived in an energy efficient Big Sky home that uses the water management system described above. This is how Saad’s home is plumbed and manages its water on a daily basis, and he says this method can be expanded to include multiple homes on a larger scale.

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