By John Ingle – Times record News, Wichita Falls 3/8/15
WICHITA FALLS, Texas - Those in the wastewater treatment industry have identified wastewater effluent as an additional source of water because it has been a source for someone downstream for quite some time.
Houston, for example, gets the product when it is released from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and flows south. But no one had figured out how to capture their own wastewater effluent to address drinking water needs of their own — at least until now.
Julie Nahrgang, executive director of the Water Environment Association of Texas and the Texas Association of Clean Water Agencies, said Friday that Wichita Falls has connected those dots and created a process that will be used by others in the not-too-distant future. She was part of a group of utilities directors throughout the state to meet in Wichita Falls to discuss water issues as well as tour the direct potable reuse system at Cypress Water Treatment Plant.
She said the DPR was borne out of “necessity and brilliance.”
“It takes something that is innovative and theoretical, and puts it into a ‘proven technology’ category,” she said. “The state’s population is set to double by 2050-2060, and we’re going through what might become the drought of record.
“You’ve got two things working to make this a viable option for other cities down the road. Wichita Falls just happened to take that torch and be the pioneer.”
Nahrgang said all eyes have been on Wichita Falls since the city began working on the project. She commended Public Works director Russell Schreiber and utilities operations manager Daniel Nix for getting the DPR completed under an extreme amount of pressure to get it right. Other cities, she said, were watching to see if Wichita Falls could demonstrate the systems capabilities, as well as if there were any gaps or holes in the treatment process.
She said she also was impressed that industry in the area have realized the value of the water source, and have plans to incorporate wastewater effluent into their own processes.
“When the city is leading industry, that’s impressive,” Nahrgang said. “That speaks to the commitment, the foresight and the understanding of water treatment on all levels — not only drinking water, but wastewater treatment.
“We need to start viewing water as one water. It’s not just on one end or the other.”
Nix said it’s not just Texas entities looking to Wichita Falls for guidance on possible projects. The Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District in Norman, Oklahoma, is considering a direct or indirect potable reuse system, and a group from Hawaii is expected to visit Wichita Falls because they are interested, too.
But it was a visit by a group in December that shows the world is watching.
Nix said three representatives from the World Bank toured Cypress Water Treatment Plant on Dec. 5 to learn more about the DPR process. He said they felt other countries would want to install this technology, and look to the World Bank for financing.
“They wanted to understand what they were going to be loaning money for, and at the end of the day, they wanted to bring clients to Wichita Falls from these other countries so they could see how the facilities operate,” he said. “When you’ve got the World Bank coming to Wichita Falls, that means you’re drawing a lot of attention, and it’s for a good cause.”
Nix said utilities directors throughout the state meet regularly to talk about ideas and concerns within the industry. This was the first meeting in Wichita Falls, and included people from Abilene, Amarillo, Arlington, Austin, Fort Worth, Irving and Lubbock.
While the people on tour were impressed with the plant and treatment process, there was another area that intrigued them — how was Wichita Falls, through drought restrictions, able to drop from more than 35 million gallons daily produced before the drought to 10-12 MGD now.
“They’re conserving water, but from what I’m gathering, they’re not conserving it at the levels that we are,” Nix said. “They’re very impressed with what we’ve been able to accomplish up here.”
He said the group also was impressed by how clean the water is considering the types of compounds in the raw lake water.
“I wouldn’t say it’s rocket science. But you have to pay attention to the science,” he said. “All of this information is out there. It’s how you put it together and the attention to detail. You can get this accomplished.”
Follow John Ingle on Twitter at @inglejohn1973.