Drought can be a big motivator to getting water providers interested in reuse, but many other communities in Texas have long employed reuse to supplement existing water supplies. El Paso has been injecting or infiltrating treated wastewater from the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant to enhance recharge in the Hueco Bolson Aquifer since 1985. The Tarrant Regional Water District, located in the Fort Worth area, has the first-of-its-kind-in-the-United-States engineered wetland where water from the effluent-dominated Trinity River is trickled through a carefully designed wetland before ultimately being placed back into a reservoir. San Antonio has long provided treated wastewater to meet various industrial, irrigation, and recreational needs. Guess where the water in the River Walk comes from?
In general, the public in Texas has accepted reuse. There hasn’t been much concern expressed with de facto or indirect reuse, probably because the environmental buffers create a degree of separation between the wastewater treatment plant and the water treatment plant; however, a general concern over microcontaminants is expressed from time to time. Public acceptance of direct potable reuse has been more of a challenge, but through education and the reality of finding water in dry climes, the challenge has been met (see Big Spring and Wichita Falls). El Paso recently conducted a survey that found that 84 percent of El Pasoans were supportive of further treating wastewater intended for irrigation for drinking water instead. After providing more information about the technology used to further purify the water, that support increased to 95 percent.
At the end of the day, every Texan knows that what comes around goes around—and that wet water is better than no water at all.
Dr. Robert E. Mace, Ph.D., P.G. serves as Texas Water Development Board’s Deputy Executive Administrator, where he oversees its Water Science and Conservation Division. Texas Water Development Board Engineering Specialist Erika Mancha evaluates innovative water technologies.