Wichita Falls begins drinking treated wastewater

Wichita Falls, TX has begun using treated wastewater to supply its 150,000 residents with a reliable drinking supply, and to date is only the second city in the state to do so. The River Road Waste Treatment Plant began using millions of gallons of the recycled water on July 9th after it was determined that the water met government drinking standards. According to an article posted by the Statesman, “Wichita Falls is operating under a Stage 5 drought catastrophe, in which outdoor watering is banned and conservation is urged. Demand for city water has dropped 45 percent, according to City Manager Darron Leiker.” Even with the new recycled water project in full swing, the Texas Water Development Board estimates that water reservoirs in the Wichita Falls area will run dry by August 2016.

Although Wichita Falls is only the second city to have treated wastewater for drinking supplies, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has begun issuing financial aid to help Texas cities deal with increasing water demands. On July 10th, the Texas Water Development Board approved funding of $2,920,000 for various water and wastewater improvements. In total, $2,545,000 of the funding is slated to go towards rural water projects. The three cities that will receive the financial assistance are listed below:

  • $375,000 in financial assistance to the City of El Campo (Wharton County) to finance planning, acquisition and design for water system improvements
  • $2,375,000 in financial assistance to the City of Iraan (Pecos County) to finance planning, acquisition, design and construction of a new wastewater treatment plant and water system improvements
  • $170,000 in financial assistance to the City of O’Brien (Haskell County) to finance the planning, design, and construction for water system improvements


Recycling wastewater for consumption purposes is not a new idea but has increasingly become more practical due to the lingering drought conditions that are apparent throughout Texas. While treating wastewater through reverse osmosis is not a cheap endeavor, it may be the best option for tackling tight water supplies while the population continues to skyrocket. According to the TWDB, “One of the primary advantages of reclaimed water is that wastewater plants are usually located in or near the communities where the water is needed. To support population growth, water suppliers in Texas will have to look farther from the population centers to find additional water supplies. These new supplies will be expensive to develop and will require more energy to transport the water to where it is needed than local supplies. Water reuse provides an opportunity to take advantage of a reliable supply that is local to the communities it serves.”

Interested in learning more about Texas water resources? Read last week’s post showing a statewide groundwater depth map created by our very own Ian Holt, A.K.A. Stingray.

Jordan Schmidt environmental professional

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