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Thanks to Drought, Houston's Drinking More of Dallas's Wastewater Than Ever Before

Click to enlarge a map of the Trinity River Basin, courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey
Click to enlarge a map of the Trinity River Basin, courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey

StateImpact Texas is a National Public Radio-KUT Austin-KUHF Houston joint dedicated to environmental issues. This morning, reporter Dave Fehling out of Houston looked at the water coming out of his tap and wondered: Where's it coming from? The answer: "It's the roar of many showers and toilets using water in the Dallas-Fort Worth area." And Houston's using more of Dallas's wastewater than ever before due to the historic drought, which is bad up here but far worse just a short drive to the west and south.

Listen to the whole piece here; I also transcribed some excerpts:

"'What happens when someone flushes their toilet in Dallas, that water gets treated to a certain set of criteria that allows it then to be put back into the Trinity River and it flows downstream. And then for drinking water downstream that water's taken out and treated again' -- treated again before it's used in Houston's water system."

"We learned that before the drought rainwater would dilute the Dallas water as it flows a couple hundred miles down the Trinity. By the time it got to Lake Livingston, it would make up only about one-eighth of the total flow. But now with so little rain this year that wastewater from Dallas is half of all the water in the Trinity."

"There are, though, contaminants scientists say that are missed by purification. They're called 'emerging contaminants' for which there are not yet any government health standards. They include prescription drugs, which people take and expel, or, for example, birth control pills. The hormones in them can pass right through all those filters, and, says scientist Jim Lester, do strange things to the reproduction of fish."

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