Drought pushes wastewater into Texas spotlight

May 14, 2014

A tour group samples treated wastewater at the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center, operated by the San Antonio Water System.
A tour group samples treated wastewater at the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center, operated by the San Antonio Water System.
Credit texastribune.org

The depleting of aquifers and endless drought has spurred discussion, debate, and even court cases about who owns the water.  Groundwater and rain are familiar disagreements, but in Texas wastewater has stepped on stage. 

Officials in Wichita Falls decided to turn to treated sewer water to fill residents' drinking glasses.  That has make the city the butt of late night jokes, but it turns out the joke is on everyone else according to a recent article from the Texas Tribune.

A major percentage of the population living downstream from a big city with a water supply that flows through a river probably drinks water that has more than a few drops that was once in someone else’s toilet.

Andy Samson is a Texas State University professor.  He says, Houston “has been drinking Dallas’ crap for decades.” 

In fact, the wastewater is so clean that it’s credited with helping the Trinity River stay strong during recent years of severe drought. 

Wastewater is valuable in San Antonio.  The San Antonio Water System recently applied for a permit to ensure complete ownership of the city’s wastewater.  Currently, the wastewater is deposited in the San Antonio River, and is so clean many species that were once thought to be gone forever, have returned. 

The famous Riverwalk is filled with San Antonio wastewater.

More about the reuse of water across Texas is available from The Texas Tribune.