Aquamation is water-based cremation using a process called alkaline hydrolysis. Some providers use names such as water cremation, flameless cremation, or trademarked terms. For over 25 years, alkaline hydrolysis has been employed for the final disposition of human remains at several premiere medical facilities, including the Mayo Clinic and UCLA Medical School.
Why Do Families Choose Aquamation?
Many pet owners see the water-based option as gentler than flame cremation. Aquamation uses 90% less energy than flame cremation, burns no fossil fuels, and produces no emissions, meaning it has a much smaller carbon footprint. Because aquamation yields 20-30% more remains to return to your family, you have more options for scattering, memorializing your pet in cremation artwork, and sharing mementos with more members of your family.
How Does It Work?
Your pet is placed in a private cradle in our specialized equipment. An alkaline solvent is added, and the machine fills with water. The water and solvent are heated and gently circulated throughout the equipment, allowing the solution to accelerate the natural decomposition process. Once the cycle is finished, what remains are inorganic minerals and a sterile mix of water and basic organic compounds such as salts, sugars, peptides, and amino acids. The solution is drained, and the remains are dried before being processed into the familiar powdery ‘ashes’ to be returned to the family in the urn of their choice.
Is The Water Safe?
Alkaline hydrolysis completely breaks down all bacteria, viruses, and prions. The same process is used for sterile disposal of biohazardous materials, and the remaining solution is neutralized to a safe pH before discharge. The final output, or ‘effluent’, is an exceptional fertilizer.
How Does Water Leave Ashes?
The results of flame cremation, colloquially called 'ashes', are inorganic minerals processed into powder. Aquamation also leaves the same minerals behind, but produces 20-30% higher volume of cremated remains, as none are burned off during aquamation.
How Long Does It Take?
Aquamation requires approximately one day, after which time is taken for the remains to dry before processing into ashes. Most pets will be available to return home within one week.
How Much Water Is Used?
Water usage is comparable to what would be used to give your pet a bath.
What Happens to the Water?
The effluent is discharged into the same water lines used by funeral homes during embalming, eventually returned to the earth through the same infrastructure as rainwater. At Heartland, we are evaluating systems to recapture the effluent for usage as fertilizer, as the organic compounds and alkalinity are ideal for plants, and reclamation would help us return our pets to the ‘circle of life’ more directly.