Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More Dallas bath and toilet water headed for Houston

It has long been a joke to those who know where Houston gets its water: take a drink from a tap in Houston and say ‘thank you’ to your friends in Dallas for flushing their toilets and doing all the other things that create a city’s wastewater.

In fact, without the Dallas-Fort Worth wastewater, the drought may have nearly dried up the Trinity. Decades ago, that happened. But now, the Metroplex sends so much wastewater down the Trinity, even in the driest year in Texas, the river continues to flow. Which means the wastewater is far more concentrated.

The Trinity River Authority (TRA) said in a normal year, just one-eighth of the flow as it reaches Lake Livingston is Dallas-Fort Worth wastewater. But this summer, that wastewater accounted for one-half the flow.

Nevertheless, the plan to bring more of Dallas' delicious sewage to us surges ahead.

After decades of fits and starts, Houston is pushing forward with plans to move Trinity water nearly 30 miles to Lake Houston. The reservoir, located on the smaller San Jacinto River, fills the taps for millions of people in the region.

Planners say the Luce Bayou project, a nearly $300 million pipeline and canal, would provide water to the ever-swelling city and suburbs while helping with the area's planned conversion from groundwater. The newly adopted state water plan identifies it among the key strategies to slake the region's thirst in 2060.

Mmmmm. Pour me another glass. Of course it's not just the taste we'll have to acquire...

The project, they say, could invite too much growth, encourage more transfers from water-rich East Texas and damage native habitats along the Trinity and in the bay.

"This project is a game changer," said Brandt Mannchen, of the Sierra Club's Houston group. [...]

Critics say the state plan promotes more pumps, pipes, dams and canals ahead of saving existing water. Although the plan calls for 12 percent of the supply in 2060 to come from conservation, they say more could be done.

With Luce Bayou, "we will have capacity well into the future," said Jim Lester, a water policy expert at the Houston Advanced Research Center. "My fundamental problem with this is, we are doing so little on conservation."

The Sierra Club's Mannchen said the project continues an endless cycle of increasing water supply to meet growing demands. Eventually, Houston may be forced to go farther east to grab water from the Neches or Sabine, he said.

Another concern is the potential impact on one of the nation's most productive and commercially valuable bay and estuary systems.

Both the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers empty into Galveston Bay, but at different points. The bay's northernmost lobe likely will become saltier with less water from the Trinity, experts said.

Conservation? Rainwater capture and purification? No thanks. We'll just build another pipeline and drink Dallas' wastewater. And pay the city of Houston a hundred bucks a month for the privilege.

Oh well, maybe the radiation will kill us all quicker than we think, and we won't have to worry about these long-term projects.

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