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?

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