Everything You Need to Know About Water Cremation

When choosing a remarkable loved one’s final resting place, you may be overwhelmed by the options. Once you have chosen between burial and cremation, you’ll need to decide which type of cremation will best honor your loved one’s impact and legacy.

Water cremation is one of the newest and most eco-friendly burial options to consider. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of water-based cremation as you research your options for post-life services. 

What Is Water Cremation?

Water cremation is a process that uses water, alkali-based chemicals, and heat to facilitate the natural decomposition of human remains. It is also known as aquamation, flameless cremation, biocremation, resomation, or alkaline hydrolysis.

Some people even call the alkaline hydrolysis process “green cremation” because it has less of an environmental impact than traditional flame-based cremation and emits fewer pollutants.

After this process, your loved one’s remains are transformed into bone fragments and a liquid known as effluent. These bone fragments are then processed into something that resembles the ashes that are produced during flame-based cremation.

What Is the History of Water Cremation?

Water cremation was invented in 1888 in Middlesex, England by Amos Herbert Hobson, who wanted to take animal remains and turn them into plant food. 

In 1990, aquamation grew in popularity as a way to lay lab-tested animals to rest. Soon after, in 2000, water cremation became a popular way to bury beloved family pets. 

In 2005, the first water cremation chamber for human death care was manufactured by Joseph Wilson, the founder of Bio-Response solutions. Since then, this cremation option has become a thoughtful end-of-life option for our environmentally-conscious loved ones.

How Does Water Cremation Work?

To begin water cremation, a loved one’s remains are brought to a funeral home or crematorium with an alkaline hydrolysis chamber. From here, they immerse our loved ones in a solution that is 95% water and 5% alkali (such as lye, potassium hydroxide, or sodium hydroxide).

The water is heated to temperatures of 200 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the 1,600 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit required for flame cremation. 

Our loved one will remain in this pressurized steel container until the process is complete, which takes about four to eight hours. Water cremation mimics the natural decomposition process that occurs during traditional burial. However, instead of taking two decades like natural decomposition, water cremation only takes a matter of hours.

These pressurized chambers leave behind a white and tan powder made from bone fragments. This powder is then returned to the family, similar to ashes created by flame cremation. 

Water-Based Cremation vs. Flame-Based Cremation

Traditional cremation by fire is the more well-known cremation option, but water cremation has many benefits as well. Regardless of which you choose, either form of cremation is a thoughtful way to lay your loved one to rest. 

More Eco-Friendly

Fire cremation is already a greener option than traditional burial because it does not require the use of a casket or harmful embalming chemicals. However, water cremation is an even more eco-friendly burial option with 1/10 the carbon footprint and 85% less energy usage than flame-based cremation.

Water cremation does not emit the same harmful substances, pathogens, and gasses into the air that flame cremation does. It also uses fewer harmful chemicals than the embalming fluids needed for earthen burial. Flame-based cremation can even emit approximately 150 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air, significantly impacting the atmosphere. 

Green burials are rising in popularity as more people are seeing the harmful effects of traditional burial methods. Water cremation will continue to gain momentum as more states legalize this cost-effective and eco-friendly option, especially as a way to honor remarkable loved ones who were committed to living a sustainable lifestyle.

Gentler 

Water cremation is a gentler process than fire cremation. Water cremation puts simplicity back into the burial process, allowing the Earth’s natural elements to do what nature intended. 

No Additional Costs

When it comes to traditional cremation, families must purchase a casket-like container made from cardboard to house the body during the process. Water cremation places a loved one’s body directly into the chamber. Therefore, families are only paying for the cremation itself, making it a cost-effective way to lay our loved ones to rest. 

More Ashes

Water cremation creates a larger amount of ashes than fire cremation — about 32% more, to be exact. 

Traditional cremation results in a coarser, gray-ish color, while water cremation brings uniformly white powder that is finer in texture. This may be helpful if your family chooses to divide your loved one’s ashes among multiple family members for memorial keepsakes or ash-scattering ceremonies. 

Impact the Cycle of Life

To honor water cremation’s original intent to feed the Earth using animal remains, the bone fragments left after water cremation can be used to plant new life. Many companies are now helping families use their loved one’s ashes to plant trees as a way to honor their impact and legacy.

However, cremated remains from flame-based cremation can be harmful for plant life because of their high levels of salt. This means companies must work to ensure ashes are successfully combined with other nutrients to create planters for a healthy tree.

With water cremation, this is not a concern. The water solution that remains after the process of water cremation is complete is one made up of amino acids, peptides, and sugar. This solution can be used to fertilize the earth and result in healthy plant growth. Since both the water solution and bone fragment powder contain your loved one’s remains, families can choose to keep the ashes and plant new life with the water solution. 

With both the water solution and the ashes, family members have a greater opportunity to create a meaningful memorial for their loved ones. 

Heartfelt Option for Beloved Pets

Water cremation is also a thoughtful option for your beloved family pet. Water cremation for humans is currently only available in 20 states, including Florida, Minnesota, and Colorado. Meanwhile, water cremation of pets has been legalized in the United States entirely.

We know your pet is another member of the family. When they pass, it is deeply devastating. You can honor their impact and legacy through the dignity of aquamation. 

How Much Does Water Cremation Cost?

Water cremation is fairly comparable to traditional cremation. While water cremation is slightly higher — costing anywhere between $2,00 and $3,000 — it is still significantly more cost-effective than a traditional funeral which can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000. 

Direct cremation, a process that takes a person’s body to be cremated directly after they have passed, is still the most affordable burial option. The average cost of direct cremation is approximately $2,000. 

How Can We Honor Our Cremated Loved Ones?

Since water cremation results in both ash and a water solution, there are many options for families deciding how to honor their remarkable loved one following cremation. 

Plant a Tree

The solution that is left over after water cremation is environmentally friendly and beneficial for plant life. Families can choose to use the leftover solution as fertilizer for a garden or to plant a memorial tree in their loved one’s honor. 

Families can work with a variety of different companies or plant on their own using this water solution as plant food. 

Ashes

Water-based cremation creates memorial ashes that are returned to surviving family members in an urn, similar to traditional cremation. From here, families can choose how they would like to memorialize their loved one. Families can divide the ashes among each other as a memorial keepsake, display these ashes in their home, or bury them at a gravesite. 

Families can also choose from various ash-scattering ceremonies. Many people choose to release ashes into the wind as a symbol of letting go and setting their loved ones free. Some also choose trenching ceremonies which involve digging a trench and burying the ashes.

Families can also turn ashes into various cremation keepsakes, such as memorial diamonds. These diamonds are a physical reminder of the bond you shared with your remarkable loved one that you can pass down throughout generations, keeping their story alive. 

Conclusion

Water cremation is a thoughtful alternative to cremation by fire or traditional burial because it mimics the natural process of decomposition. This innovative form of cremation has many benefits for families hoping to memorialize their loved ones in a heartfelt way. 

No matter which form of cremation or burial you choose, each option provides opportunities to thoughtfully and meaningfully celebrate your loved one’s remarkable life.

Sources:

Hey Mr. Green, Is Alkaline Hydrolysis More Ecofriendly Than Cremation? | Sierra Club

Alkaline Hydrolysis | Cremation Association of North America (CANA)

The History of Alkaline Hydrolysis | Good Funeral Guide

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