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Question: Where does a majority of Houston's drinking water originate from?
Answer: The toilets and showers of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
That's not a joke. There's nothing funny about drinking wastewater that comes from the toilets and showers of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Yet that's makes up a majority of the tap water Houstonians drink each day.
In the Metroplex, when someone flushes their toilet, or gives their dog a bath, or washes their dirty laundry, that water gets treated according to a certain set of criteria that allows it then to be put back into the Trinity River. Once in the Trinity River the water is washed downstream where it enters the reservoir at Lake Livingston. This reservoir is a major source of drinking water for the Houston area.
In most years, rainwater dilutes the wastewater that’s released into the Trinity River. By the time it arrives at Lake Livingston, the wastewater makes up only about one-eighth of the total flow. However, due to last year’s extreme drought conditions, half the water flowing down the Trinity River was wastewater from the Metroplex.
Although the water is treated again before it becomes Houston drinking water, there are many contaminants scientists say that are missed by purification. Called 'emerging contaminants' they include prescription drugs, birth control pills and hormones for which there are not yet any government health standards. These “emergent contaminants” are believed to have adverse effects on the reproductive systems of the fish that inhabit the Trinity River system.
"We learned that before the drought rainwater would dilute the Dallas water as it flows a couple hundred miles down the Trinity. By the time it got to Lake Livingston, it would make up only about one-eighth of the total flow. But now with so little rain this year that wastewater from Dallas is half of all the water in the Trinity."
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