The Trinity River, Watering 1/2 the People of Texas


Reused Wastewater Key to Trinity Rivers Survival | The Texas Tribune

Reused Wastewater Key to Trinity Rivers Survival | The Texas Tribune.

“Every drop of water that’s being consumed in Houston has been through the wastewater treatment plants in Dallas and Fort Worth,” said Andy Sansom, director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.

With the drought and growing population, this practice should become more common.  When I lived in west Texas the wastewater was recycled for use on the golf course, parks, and sports fields.  That ought to be the norm – why are we using drinking water for grass?  But of course, that will be expensive to implement – it means new pipes, pumps, and infrastructure that won’t come cheap.  But then again, neither is water.

“The preliminary results are that the ecology of the Trinity is surprisingly good,” Clingenpeel said. A key reason for those results, he said, is that a large proportion of the river’s flow downstream is from treated wastewater, which is so clean that the basin now supports species such as darter fish that are sensitive to pollution and would not have survived in the river in the past. 

But there are dark clouds on the horizon, including those cast by an invasive species – the zebra mussel.

A growing concern for communities that rely on the Trinity’s waters is the recent discovery ofzebra mussels in the river in Denton County, prompting fears that the invasive species will spread downstream. In other parts of the state, zebra mussels have clogged pipes and restricted the flow of pumped water, prompting water providers to spend millions to combat the problem.

Another problem could be competition between Dallas and Houston for the Trinity’s water – leaving Galveston Bay “high and dry.”

“In peak drought periods, it would reduce the levels below the minimum levels necessary for ecosystem health,” said Luke Metzger, the group’s director. “I think that in general, we need to be exhausting our potential for conservation before we consider projects like this.” 

How can the needs of people be balanced against those of the ecosystems dependent upon the water?  And, is there a difference?  If we destroy the Bay’s ecosystem, won’t we be destroying our future?

Panama Plus the Port of Houston Equals Money and Traffic Jams

Panama Canal Expansion Raises Expectations in Houston — Transportation | The Texas Tribune.

The Panama Canal is expanding to accommodate larger ships.  Many of those large ships may dock at the Port of Houston.

The port is overseeing $3 billion in updates to its berths and cranes and other facilities, many of which are being completed in anticipation of the 2014 debut of the expanded Panama Canal.

This year a record 8,073 ships docked in Houston, off-loading cargo from all over the world – Volkswagons, bananas, and iPads.  These products were then shipped across the US on trains and trucks.  If the traffic at the port increases due to the larger ships able to traverse the Canal, how much more traffic will these transportation routes see?

“I think that we will see an increase, but we are very, very conservative in what we forecast, about a 15 percent increase of the traffic we get on the trade lane from Asia to Houston,” Kunz said, discussing the movement of container ships.

Kunz, a Vice-President of the Houston Port Authority, says some of these transportation routes need updating:

“The rail system needs to be redesigned, because even though the two major railroads serving here do a good job, the rail system was designed well over 100 years ago, and a lot of those rail tracks still go through downtown, which doesn’t make any sense.”

Houston won’t be the only port to benefit; New Orleans, Mobile, and those along the East coast will see more traffic:

“The West Coast is going to lose some. We’re going to get a little bit. The East Coast ports are going to get a little. Everyone is going to share a little bit more in the wealth.”

What effect will the increase have on road traffic in Texas?  How much more barge/ship traffic will traverse the Mississippi River?  How will the decrease in West Coast port traffic affect train traffic across the US (a large percentage of Union Pacific train business is transporting cargo from West Coast ports to Chicago/New Orleans ports for transport to Europe)?

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