Wastewater Wars: Reuse Projects in Texas

As Texas continues to grapple with an impending deficit of water supplies to meet its future water demands, many water purveyors are looking to their existing resources to meet such needs. Although many water purveyors have already begun planning direct reuse projects, also known as “flange-to-flange” reuse, others have begun to realize the value of wastewater treatment plant discharges. Depending on the quality and type of effluent produced, indirect reuse projects, also known as “bed-and-banks” reuse, may be even more valuable than direct reuse projects. Many entities are now realizing that large quantities of relatively high quality reclaimed water has for too long been considered a waste stream or liability rather than a resource. Generators of waste streams in the Trinity River Basin are no exception. This realization, in turn, has generated some degree of conflict between surface water rights holders whose water rights may be made more reliable by upstream return flows, and the generators of those flows, who value the water supply that can be made available from reuse of such return flows. This conflict has and will result in competing applications for reuse of return flows and a heightened awareness among Trinity River Basin interests of the significance of indirect reuse projects. When the interests of environmentalists, who logically view effluent return flows as reliable, high quality base flows in many streams, are also considered, the conflict grows even larger.

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