Wastewater is the spent water after homes, commercial establishments, industries, public institutions, and similar entities have used their waters for various purposes. It is synonymous with sewage, although sewage is a more general term that refers to any polluted water (including wastewater), which may contain organic and inorganic substances, industrial wastes, groundwater that happens to infiltrate and to mix with the contaminated water, storm runoff, and other similar liquids. A certain sewage may not be a spent water or a wastewater.

The keyword in the definition of wastewater is "used" or "spent." That is, the water has been used or spent and now it has become a waste water. On the other hand, to become a sewage, it is enough that water becomes polluted whether or not it had been used. When one uses the word wastewater, however, the meaning of the two words is blended such that they now often mean the same thing. Wastewater equals sewage.

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