Americans start drinking sewer water as droughts take toll nationwide

Friday, February 28, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: sewer water, drought, recycling

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(NaturalNews) There is a saying that goes, "Desperate times call for desperate measures," and clearly, city officials in one drought-stricken Texas town are getting desperate.

According to the CBS News affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, one North Texas community may serve up recycled sewer water to residents because of prolonged dry conditions in the region:

Wichita Falls is two hours outside of Dallas. Three years ago 88-percent of Texas was under exceptional drought conditions -- that's the worst classification of drought. Today there are just two small areas that still have that designation and the city of Wichita Falls is in one of them.

The report said that nearby Lake Arrowhead gave a clear indication of just how bad the drought has become. Though it is one of the town's main sources of water, it is currently only at about 27 percent capacity, officials said.

If you look over the banks, you can see boat docks that are some 10 to 15 feet above dry land. And the nearest water to them is hundreds of feet away. Discovery News reported that the current drought is the third-worst on record for Texas.

Saving five million gallons per day


The lake bed is littered with dead fish and shells. When the wind blows you're reminded of a dustbowl.

Every time the water in the lake drops, officials in Wichita Falls consider enacting more severe water restrictions. Through conservation efforts, city water usage dropped from between 45 and 50 million gallons of water each day before the drought, to 12 million gallons a day now. But the water savings still aren't enough.

"This reuse system will put five million gallons [of water] back in the distribution system a day," Mayor Glenn Barham told the affiliate. "So, it saves us taking five million gallons out of the lake."

North Texas is a region used to droughts, and so Wichita Falls officials began planning for dire water conditions about two years ago. One plan that had been suggested once before, but then dropped, was again up for consideration: taking water straight from the waste treatment facility and sending it to the water treatment plant for additional cleaning, then into the water system.

"Now there's a big black pipe that snakes through town connecting the city's waste water facility to the water treatment plant," the report said. "Currently the city is in the process of completing 45 days of testing. They send the results to the state environmental quality department. Once there the department will take 30 days to decide whether the water is safe enough to put directly into the tap."

The program could go live as early as April, officials said, adding that, so far, regarding the testing, things are going well.

Potty water

"We evaluated the waste-water first to see what kind of quality we would be dealing with. The wastewater quality coming out of that plant was very high, so we didn't have a lot of things to deal with," public utilities operations manager Daniel Nix told the affiliate.

Such high-quality test results mean the city did not have to put a whole lot of effort into turning the wastewater into something that residents would be able to drink (or want to drink). And, as Discovery News pointed out, NASA uses a more direct toilet-to-tap system on the space station.

But will residents drink up? A number of residents whom the CBS affiliate talked to said no, thanks -- they'll stick to the bottled or filtered water they are currently using.

Still, most residents understand the city is in dire straits and needs to do something.

"I'm happy about it because we're concerned here about our water levels and whether or not we're going to have water," said resident Juanita Dean.

Go ahead -- cue the "potty water" jokes now.






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