From flush to faucet: Dry Texas towns rethinking recycled water

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by Joe Conger / KENS 5

kvue.com

Posted on February 9, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 12:18 PM

BIG SPRING -- Once Big Spring, Texas was first on the map as an oasis in the West Texas desert. Indians and settlers visited its waters, but the spring just isn’t enough in this 21st century.

“We’re fighting a pretty big drought out here in West Texas right now,” said John Grant, general manager of the Colorado River Municipal Water District

With its lakes and reservoirs drying up, the Colorado Municipal Water District wanted an innovative way to hold onto the water it has. And they didn’t have to look any further than the bathroom.

Water down the drain used to go into the town’s sewage treatment plant where it was processed and eventually dumped in a river downstream.
 
Now, that dirty water is recycled in a $14-million facility that super-cleans it. From toilet to tap in ten days—that’s the turnaround expected when the plant goes on line.
 
Using a series of membranes, the water is filtered then put through a process of reverse osmosis, and finally, bombarded with ultra-violet light to disinfect.
 
Grant said, “We’re going to take this water and blend it into our raw water system. It’ll go to the city of Big Spring, the city of Stanton, the city of Midland, the city of Odessa.”
 
Officials admit the biggest hurdle may be the public’s perception.
 
Grant added, “There was an elderly gentleman in Midland who said, ‘Good, I get to drink my beer twice.’”
 
So, residents have been drinking a steady diet of public service announcements and updates on the raw-water plant and how it works.
 
Big Spring is a town where the water is already tough to swallow: chock-full of chlorides and sulfur.
 
The raw water plant doesn't just get rid of the smell. Solids are removed, too, along with minerals, salts, even pharmaceuticals and drugs.
 
The plant can produce 2 million gallons a day in a community that uses 70 million. Officials say the long-term goal is to make reclaimed water like this 10 percent of the total water usage.
 
It may be just a drop in the bucket now, but every drop, officials say, counts.

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