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Montana Microsewers: Clever? Or Crappy?

What are Microsewers and how can Montana benefit?
Pipe with running water
Photo Credit Marco Bicca

In housing constrained markets like Missoula, Montana, developable land with existing infrastructure is hard to come by. Connecting to city sewer costs, on average, $3,206 – and that doesn’t account for trenching, labor, and other costs developers incur. 

And that’s if city sewer is available. If the area requires septic systems, engineered drain fields can run upwards of $20,000 each. Facing these mounting costs, developers have turned to another solution: microsewers. 

Microsewers are a hyperlocal alternative to using public utility or creating pricey septic systems and/or drain fields. It’s exactly what the name says: a very small, but nonetheless highly functional, sewer system that serves a defined group of homes (and potentially businesses). 

Pros and Cons 

Developers (or small existing communities) build the microsewer, and residents pay to tie into and then use the utility over time. But because this method can facilitate development where it otherwise might not occur, clear land-use planning guidelines should be in place to prevent sprawl. 

Microsewers can open up formerly off-grid land for development, and, as a result, they can also help to maintain the rural setting of the development. However, the management of the microsewer system must be clearly and tightly defined at the outset of such a project. 

Questions about using microsewers? Contact Matt Mellott.