Sanitary Sewer Systems

Most rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley lack sanitary sewer systems.  Instead, these communities rely on on-site septic tanks or even old cesspools.  Septic tanks that are too old, poorly installed or maintained, or located too close to other septic tanks or water wells can have disastrous consequences.  Problems include sewage and gray-water surfacing in yards, contamination of ground water, and nuisances like odors.  All of these problems threaten the health of rural residents.

Even where a public sewer system is in place, wastewater challenges may include failing or undersized sewer collection systems, or wastewater treatment and disposal facilities that are not capable of meeting the community’s waste discharge requirements. Some communities also lack the technical assistance and ability to secure financing to make needed improvements.

To address these issues, Self-Help Enterprises community development staff provide critical technical assistance to local communities, linking the community’s need to funding and technical resources. At the core of this effort is the empowerment of residents to take control of the development of their own community infrastructure needs.

As part of the technical assistance, staff evaluate environmental and health problems, educate the community, develop project alternatives, and ultimately foster community decision-making. This work includes community organizing, conducting surveys of community income, population and septic systems; researching local wastewater issues and alternatives; writing funding applications and environmental documents; working with community boards, residents, engineers and others on development of wastewater projects and district formation/annexation; and Board development.

By working collaboratively to obtain adequate wastewater facilities, the goal is for communities to have a reliable and safe method of wastewater disposal.

“Self-Help Enterprises helped us to put together the money to meet our needs. We now have a new sewer and two new pumps for water. If Self-Help Enterprises had not shown up, we’d be wearing rubber boots right now.”
~ Felix Huerta, East Orosi



Why would our community need to install a sewage treatment system?

Exposure to improperly treated sewage can result in illnesses caused by microbes such as bacteria and viruses.  Sewage can also seep into groundwater and contaminate wells which many rural residents use for drinking water.

How much does a community sewage collection, treatment and disposal system cost?

Depending on the community, several alternative types of sewage treatment systems are normally evaluated and a cost analysis performed for each one.  Criteria such as health and pollution concerns, median household income, grant and loan availability as well as community interest often determine whether project funding is available. Based on the funding received and projected operational costs the cost of a sewage treatment system can be estimated.

Is it possible to connect to an existing sewer system?

The proximity to the nearest sewer system and its capacity to provide sewage treatment services will determine if this is possible.  Local government requirements must also be assessed.  Self-Help Enterprises staff helps communities evaluate these matters so local residents can make informed choices.

Interest Form 

If you are interested in more information about sanitary sewer systems for a rural community, please complete the interest form. A Self-Help Enterprises staff member will contact you.

Interest Form

Please fill out the form.

Interest Form

Healthy Homes and Communities



Building homes that are energy efficient, use fewer resources, and are affordable.

Community Building

Community Building

Empowering people to become leaders in their community.

Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness

Creating and supporting efforts to promote healthy homes and communities.