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IT IS SO DRY!!!! What does this mean for lateral fields?

Despite the little “surprise” shower we got earlier this week, it kinda feels like there’s a state- wide ban on rain showers, doesn’t it?  It’s like Nebraska has some sort of magnetic field that has been repelling all moisture from the state.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Because we are so dry, I got an interesting call the other day from one of my customers.  She, like many of us, has noticed how dry and cracked the ground is everywhere on her property – even above her lateral field.  So, she called to see if it would be wise to water her laterals.

Considering how dry it has been, I totally understand why she called!  Honestly, I think Arizona has received more rain this summer than we have.  Soon we will see armadillos and cacti overtaking the Nebraska cornfields!  But to her question, I had to answer NO.

Here’s why….

Every drop of wastewater that comes out of your house is eventually absorbed by your laterals.  The reason your laterals work (and are effective) is because they always remain dry enough to constantly absorb water.  If you start watering this region, you could cause yourself some problems.  Again, I understand this year is likely an exception to the rule with how dry the ground is, however, watering your laterals is just not a good habit to ever get in.

Let me give a couple of examples:

1)    Unfortunately, there have been cases over the years where people have installed underground sprinkling systems either over their laterals or close to their laterals.  When customers water this area consistently, they tend to have trouble with their septic system.  If you constantly keep your soil saturated, then there is no place for the water to go…so it either pools above your laterals (leaving stinking puddles for your dogs and kids to get into…) or it backs up into your house.  Neither of which are a good time for anyone.  When customers stop watering this area, the problem typically goes away.

2)    There are certain soil types that aren’t fabulous in wetter years.  I mean, they pass percolation tests, but they also have struggles if we get a lot of rain.  They also don’t age well…meaning where most septic systems typically last about 20 years, these last 15…or sometimes only 10 years.  These soil types are a lot like driving a used car.  They work, but they also require you to be a very attentive owner if you don’t want your car in the shop all the time.  I remember driving such a car in high school.  It worked great, unless I drove it further than 30 miles.  Or if I forgot and left it outside on a cold night and didn’t put it in the garage.  I always had to be mindful of MY behavior with that car.  These types of soils are EXACTLY the same.  However, this year – it’s so dry THESE SOILS are functioning FINE!  You can do just about anything you want and still not have problems!  You can host your 50 relatives for the summer family reunion and put a slip and slide on top of the laterals with no issue!  BUT, let me tell you, this time will come to an end the minute Nebraska starts getting moisture again.  So, I don’t want to encourage bad behavior for 90% of the septic system’s life.  This has been an EXCEPTIONAL year, not the norm.

Hopefully, sometime soon, our weather patterns will change and we will be back to normal rainfall levels.  In the meantime, just bear with the drought and cracks in your yard and over your laterals.  Mother Nature has a way of always fixing herself in the long term.

Until next time!