Dallas Water Utilities Wants City's Sewage to Supply Downtown

Recycled Water.jpg
In April 2005, the city of Dallas began an experiment. What if, rather than spraying millions of gallons of fully treated, tap-quality water on the Cedar Crest Golf Course, it used partially treated wastewater. The grass doesn't mind water that's a little bit dirty and, so long as it's piped in separately from drinking water and no one decides to guzzle from the sprinklers, it's perfectly safe.

It's a simple concept, says Dennis Qualls, a senior planner with Dallas Water Utilities:

"If water doesn't need to be treated to drinking water to be usable, do we need to treat all the water to that level to use it?" Qualls said.

The answer is no, and as Cedar Crest golf course has proved, it has its benefits. Each gallon of wastewater the city can find a use for frees up a gallon for other uses, effectively extending the city's finite water supply. Furthermore, it means that less water needs to be treated to meet demand, thereby lowering treatment costs.

The Cedar Crest project was costly -- $1.4 million to install a separate system of pipes -- but successful enough that the city began work extending the system to Stevens Park Golf Course in Oak Cliff and along the White Rock Creek corridor.

The city has now targeted another thirsty place to use reclaimed water: downtown.

Downtown isn't thirsty so much because a lot of people live there or there is a whole lot of irrigation but because there are a lot of buildings that use a lot of water to supply their cooling towers. As with a golf course green, there's no reason that water has to meet drinking quality standards.

So, using a $198,000 grant from the Bureau of Reclamation, DWU will soon begin a feasibility study for using recycled water downtown. The study, Qualls says, will look at where the wastewater will come from, how and where it can be used, what kind of infrastructure would be needed to make that happen, et cetera.

There is, at this point, no concrete date at which DWU expects to begin pumping its sewage downtown, but the study will be wrapped up by the time the city submits information for an updated regional water plan in 18 to 24 months.

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Time to cross these two courses off my list.  Golf is frustrating enough without e coli poisoning.


This would mean a new sign would need to be made for Main Street Gardens. The current "People With Diarrhea" sign would need to include one that reads "Diarrhea With People".


Why not just dig some wells for the water? The State Fair dug one not to long ago on The Midway next to the Greenhouse with the revolving basket thing inside. They hit water at only 40 feet and irrigate all plants with that one well. That same water strata sits under Downtown too, unused for more than a century.

mavdog topcommenter

I've wondered why this isn't done more, it saves a lot of money.


Of course, the cost of building a second pipe system is huge, but just think about all the water that is now sprayed (wasted?) on irrigation after being treated...


Been to communities that have a 2 pipe system such as described. When the irrigation system is running it does have an, uh, shall I say strong aroma, especially in the hotter times of day.


This would really benefit our water resources, and that planned reservoir in east TX might not be needed. So take those $billion spent on the resevoir and transmission pipes and spend it on a 2nd water distribution system for irrigation.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Just carry a few Jerry-Wipes around to keep you Bruno Magli's clean.


"Downtown isn't thirsty so much because a lot of people live there or there is a whole lot of irrigation but because there are a lot of buildings that use a lot of water to supply their cooling towers. As with a golf course green, there's no reason that water has to meet drinking quality standards."


Sounds like a fast track to a legionnaires breakout. 


 @mavdog The reason is that it has a very high upfront cost. Purple pipes don't lay themselves. 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @ObserverHatesFacts Legionnaires was traced to dirty air handling units, that is the smutz that builds up on the air side of the evaporator coil.


If anything, the airstripping that would occur in a cooling tower would be quite beneficial.


Besides, just about all cooling towers are treated with various biocides.

mavdog topcommenter

have you seen the cost of the proposed Lake Fastrill reservoir? the legal cost trying to take people's land to build the reservoir?  the cost of the pipeline to bring the water? the cost of taking the land where the reservoir will sit?


yep, that's high upfront cost...and we're still spending a lot of money cleaning the water to make it drinkable and then spraying treated water on plants.


 @mavdog You aren't wrong. Building a new reservoir is certainly very expensive. We absolutely should adopt a reclamation ordinance. But you asked why we don't do this more often. And the reason is that it is very expensive to design and build such a system. Truthfully, it would probably be far more expensive to roll out a purple pipe system throughout the whole city than it would to build a new reservoir. That said, I think we should do it. We should adopt an ordinance, tear up the streets -block by block- and build out the system. But, we are talking tens of billions of dollars and decades of work. It's not as simple as it sounds. 

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