Dallas' Wastewater Is Actually Making the Trinity River Cleaner

TrinityMoon.jpg
Flickr user fusionpanda
It's fun to joke about the filthiness of the Trinity River. It's even more fun to remind Houston that all that urine and feces and prescription medication we flush down our toilets winds up in their water glasses. By all means, this should continue.

At the same time, it's worth being mindful of a tiny piece of irony: The millions of gallons of wastewater that Dallas, Fort Worth, and their upstream neighbors are sending down there are actually making it cleaner.

See also: Thanks to Drought, Houston's Drinking More of Dallas's Wastewater Than Ever Before

A century ago, the Trinity was "basically a dead river," says Glenn Clingenpeel, a senior manager with the Trinity River Authority. It was unable to support all but the hardiest specimens of aquatic life, partly because of pollution, partly because of woefully inadequate sewage treatment.

It makes sense, then, that the Trinity would become cleaner as wastewater purification techniques improved. The surprise, revealed by a preliminary study of the river's ecology conducted by the TRA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, is just how good the water quality has become.

"What we found I think was a surprise to everybody, just in terms of the abundance of the species and the types of species," Clingenpeel says. It wasn't just a lot of creatures that thrive in putrid sludge, either. Researchers found an abundance of pollution-sensitive darter fish, as well as thriving populations of mussels and benthic macroinvertebrates that wouldn't have been able to survive in the river in decades past.

See also: State Water Planners Are Prepping for the Day We'll All Be Drinking Our Own (Treated) Urine

Nor is increased species diversity the only way North Texas' prodigious toilet flushing benefits the Trinity. As the Texas Tribune explored yesterday, it's what keeps the river flowing. During the record drought of 2011, the region's wastewater, much of it imported from other basins, was enough to maintain a steady flow, and that supply isn't going to dry up.

This calls for a celebration, preferably one involving several gallons of booze and lots and lots of trips to the bathroom. Houston will no doubt thank us.


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8 comments
ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Remember, Dallas is downstream from somebody too.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

It's gratifying to know that every time I pull the handle I'm sending my wife's annoying cousin a nice refreshing glass of water.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

What about the floaters?

John1073
John1073

Would it not be cleaner with no waste water in it at all?

Tanj
Tanj

@John1073 Maybe not.  At that point it becomes primarily fed by storm water and runoff which contains it's own pollutants.  It's very possible that the input into the river from treated waste water far exceeds the inflows from storm water and runoff.


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