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The Facts: Water Recycling

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Cities can RECYCLE their municipal water supplies and reap many additional benefits at the same time!

Municipal water recycling is changing the face of water supply in Texas, and throughout the world. Watch and share TCA’s 7-minute video to learn how recycling your city’s water is great for the future of Texas!

Water Recycling is Good Business

The Texas population is projected to almost double over the next fifty years. This population boom will greatly increase demand for the resources that make Texas such a popular place to work and live. This growth in population, combined with Texas’ recent droughts, has increased the urgency of decisions about how best to meet the growing demand for water as the population expands. A cost-effective answer to that riddle – and the one most environmentally sustainable — is this: cities can RECYCLE their municipal water supplies and reap many additional benefits at the same time!

Recycling water is a great way to help meet the growing demands for water as Texas’ population grows. It usually costs less than water from other sources and can be implemented more quickly than developing a new supply. It requires less land than building a new reservoir and benefits wildlife and the environment.

A side benefit when wetlands are used for water recycling is the great habitat for birds and wildlife the wetlands provide. These beautiful areas provide recreation and outstanding opportunities for education and research.

The East Fork Wetland, when fully operational, will produce almost the same amount of water that Lake Lavon produces each year, with less than one-tenth the acreage!

Quick slide benefits of municipal water recycling

Texas Conservation Alliance is reaching thousands of people with briefings, programs, videos, and exhibits describing the advantages of increased water recycling.

How Does it Work

With water recycling, instead of sending a city’s treated wastewater downstream, the water is reclaimed and re-used locally. The reclaimed water is subjected to advanced purification techniques that make it clean enough to be put back into our water supply. A portion of Texas’ water supply is already recycled – and there’s potential to recycle a whole lot more. There are two major ways that water is recycled. One is by filtering it through specially created wetlands; the other is using high-tech membranes combined with other advanced processes in specialized facilities to purify the water.

With wetland filtration, the wetland acts as a natural filter to remove waste products from the water. Great examples are the East Fork Wetland adjacent to the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center just south of Dallas, managed by the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), and George W. Shannon Wetlands at Richland-Chambers Reservoir, developed by the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD).

At these wetlands, water is pumped from the Trinity River into beautiful constructed wetlands. As the water flows through the wetlands, aquatic plants remove ammonia, phosphorous, nitrogen, and other waste products from the water and use them as nutrients. Bacteria and sunlight also contribute to the cleaning process. The water is then pumped back into a water supply lake. The wetlands provide wonderful habitat for wildlife.

Promoting Cost-effective Water Recycling in the DFW Area and West Texas

Any solution to meet future water demands must be cost-competitive with other alternatives. Municipal water recycling is cost-effective as well as safe. This exciting alternative to reservoir construction is making the building of new dams obsolete. Water engineers have no doubts about the safety of recycling a city’s treated wastewater. Due to a lack of public information, however, some people may have concerns about water recycling.

Texas Conservation Alliance is reaching thousands of people with briefings, programs, videos, and exhibits describing the advantages of increased water recycling. TCA is especially focused on encouraging water recycling in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The DFW region has the biggest gap between current water supply and projected future demands for water. Increasing municipal water recycling in the DFW region can save Texans billions of dollars and avoid the environmental and social costs of building new reservoirs.

Opposing Unnecessary Reservoirs

TCA recruits coalitions of landowners, businesspeople, timber industry managers and workers, tourism officials, sportsmen, scientists, civic leaders, and conservationists to oppose unneeded reservoir projects. For years, TCA has worked with a broad coalition to stop the proposed Marvin Nichols reservoir. A reservoir if built would force thousands of people off their land, inundate 40,000 to 70,000 acres of vital bottomland hardwood forests, engulf 40 miles of the beautiful Sulphur River, and devastate the timber and agribusiness economy of a 15-country region in Northeast Texas. The Marvin Nichols controversy is one of the hottest resource issues in Texas. It will require many years of concentrated effort to stop the building of this unneeded $4.1 billion reservoir project.

Benefits of Recycling Water

* Costs less than most other alternatives, such as building new reservoirs * Produces cleaner drinking water than ordinary tap water – like bottled water * Has a less onerous permitting process than a new water right * Can be implemented in modules, as demand grows, avoiding high up-front cost of reservoir * Can often be located at existing facilities and near customers to reduce construction and pumping costs * Is drought-proof; supply grows as water usage grows! * Avoids flooding productive farmland and forests to build a new reservoir * Avoids the evaporation losses of a new reservoir


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