Frequently Asked Questions
- What is water reuse?
- What is reclaimed water?
- What is reclaimed water used for?
- Why is water reuse important for Texas?
- What major laws regulate the treatment and use of reclaimed water in Texas?
- Are there different requirements for reclaimed water uses?
- Does reclaimed water look and smell the same as regular tap water?
- Is it safe for children to play on grass irrigated by reclaimed water?
- How much reclaimed water is being used in Texas?
- What are some of the advantages of using reclaimed water?
- What are some of the disadvantages?
- Are reclaimed water and potable water systems interconnected?
- Which communities in Texas use reclaimed water?
- Is water reuse a water management strategy that has to be considered by regional water planning groups (RWPGs) for their plans?
- How many RWPGs have recommended water reuse in their most recent (2016) plans? How much reclaimed water are these groups expecting to have available?
- Whom can I contact at the TWDB for more information on water reuse?
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is water reuse?
Water reuse is the beneficial use of reclaimed water (source: American Water Works Association). Examples of water reuse include irrigation, cooling, and augmenting water supplies.
2. What is reclaimed water?
As defined in Texas Administrative Code (TAC), "Reclaimed water is domestic or municipal wastewater which has been treated to a quality suitable for beneficial use" (30 TAC 210.3, Use of Reclaimed Water, Definitions). Also known as recycled water or reuse water.
Reclaimed water is not the same as greywater which is untreated, non-toilet, and household water including water from sinks, showers, and baths.
3. What is reclaimed water used for?
Reclaimed water can be used for potable and non-potable purposes including but not limited to municipal and industrial uses. Examples of non-potable municipal and industrial applications include golf course irrigation and use in cooling towers. In agriculture, water reuse could include the collection of surface runoff in ponds for supplemental irrigation or for livestock watering.
4. Why is water reuse important for Texas?
The population of Texas is expected increase from 29.5 million to 51 million between 2020 and 2070 and Texans more than ever before will be depending on the state's water resources for their health and prosperity. The 2017 State Water Plan anticipates that the current water demand of 18.4 million acre-feet per year in 2020 will increase to 21.6 million acre-feet by the year 2070. To meet this challenge the Regional Water Planning Groups (RWPGs) were asked to consider numerous water management strategies that would provide additional water supplies. Water reuse was one such strategy. Fourteen of the 16 RWPGs have recommended water reuse as a source of additional supply in their 2016 Regional Water Plans.
5. What major laws regulate the treatment and use of reclaimed water in Texas?
The Texas Administrative Code Chapter 210, administered by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), provides guidelines for the quality, design, and operational requirements for the beneficial use of reclaimed water. Additional regulatory chapters' related to use of reclaimed water are the following: Chapter 321, Subchapter P, Reclaimed Water Production Facilities, Chapter 331, Underground Injection Control, Chapter 295, Water Rights Procedural, Chapter 297, Water Rights, and Chapter 307, Texas Surface Water Quality Standards.
The Texas Water Code (TWC), Section 5.102 and 5.103, authorizes TCEQ to adopt rules necessary to carry out the powers granted to it under TWC, respectively. In addition, TWC Section 26.011states TCEQ shall establish and control the quality of the water in the State. Discharge or any related activity that will cause pollution in any water in the state is prohibited (TWC Section 26.121).
6. Are there different requirements for specific reclaimed water uses?
The Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC Chapter 210.32) identifies two types of reclaimed water uses: Type I and Type II. Type I reclaimed water is defined as use of reclaimed water where contact between humans and the reclaimed water is likely. Examples of such use include landscape irrigation at individual homes or on public golf courses, fire protection, toilet or urinal flushing, and irrigation of pastures for milking animals.
Type II reclaimed water is defined as reclaimed water where contact between humans and the water is unlikely. Examples of Type II use include dust control, cooling tower applications, irrigation of food crops where the reclaimed water is not expected to come in direct contact with the edible part of the crop, and maintenance of impoundments or natural water bodies where direct human contact is not likely.
7. Does reclaimed water look and smell the same as regular tap water?
Because reclaimed water is required to meet state-established water quality standards (30 TAC Chapter 210.33 relating to Quality Standards for Using Reclaimed Water), it does not look any different than tap water. However, some people report a slight chlorine odor in the water similar to that present in swimming pools.
8. Is it safe for children to play on grass irrigated by reclaimed water?
Reclaimed water used in areas where the water can come in contact with the public, a Type I reclaim water use (see Question 6), is required to meet TCEQ water quality standards. Adverse health effects are rare from direct external contact with the water, but are possible if large quantities of the water are ingested over an extended period of time.
9. How much reclaimed water is being used in Texas?
According to information included in the 2017 State Water Plan, a total of 564,000 acre-feet of reclaimed water was available for use in the year 2020.
10. What are some of the advantages of using reclaimed water?
Some of the benefits of using reclaimed water are:
- The water is less expensive to use or to treat and users benefit from the savings.
- The end use is located close to the source thereby eliminating the need for costly distribution systems.
- It is a drought-proof source of water.
- It is the only source of water that automatically increases with increased economic activity and population growth.
- It helps conserve traditional sources of water such as groundwater and surface water.
11. What are some of the challenges?
Some of the challenges in using reclaimed water are:
- Water reuse may be seasonal in nature, resulting in the overloading of treatment and disposal facilities during off-seasons.
- Treating wastewater for reuse requires a treatment system which could result in higher initial costs.
- Public acceptance of what many consider "dirty water" may be hard to overcome.
- The end use for the treated water is usually located at a distance from the source, requiring the need for a conveyance and distribution system that could add to the cost of the treated water.
12. Are reclaimed water and potable water systems interconnected?
Never! To avoid contamination of potable water, Texas regulations strictly prohibits interconnection between reclaimed water and potable water systems (30 TAC Chapter 210 Subchapter B relating to General Requirements for the Production, Conveyance, and Use of Reclaimed Water). All exposed reclaimed water piping, hose bibs, and faucets are required to be painted purple, have clearly marked signs in English and Spanish, and where possible have horizontal separation of at least nine feet from any potable water piping. Other requirements are listed in Chapter 210.
13. Which communities in Texas use reclaimed water?
The City of San Antonio uses reclaimed water to augment stream flow in the San Antonio River along the famous River Walk. The cities of Amarillo, Lakeway, Las Colinas, Lubbock, and Odessa use reclaimed water to irrigate golf courses and landscapes while Harlingen, San Angelo, Odessa, and Lubbock use it in cooling towers and for power generation (source: City of Austin Reclaimed Water Program). The El Paso Water Utilities re-injects reclaimed water through injection wells and infiltration basins to replenish the Hueco Bolson Aquifer. The North Texas Municipal Water District and Tarrant Regional Water District both provide treatment through man-made wetlands and then route the reuse water to the water treatment plant or reservoir for treatment and future use. The City of Austin has plans to use reclaimed water on golf courses and for landscape irrigation.
14. Is water reuse a water management strategy that has to be considered by regional water planning groups (RWPGs) for their plans?
Although regional water planning groups are not required by statute, rule or contract to consider water reuse as a water management strategy, Texas Water Code Section 16.053(e)(5)(C) requires the water planning groups to consider all potentially feasible water management strategies including those that develop new supplies. Reclaimed water could be considered to be a new supply and hence a potential water management strategy.
15. How many RWPGs have recommended water reuse in their most recent (2016) plans? How much reclaimed water are these groups expecting to have available?
Fourteen regional water planning groups have recommended water reuse as a water management strategy in their 2016 plans. Regions A and P have not recommended water reuse as a strategy. Collectively, the 14 planning groups project to have about 1,107,000 acre-feet of additional water available by the year 2070.
16. Whom can I contact at the TWDB for more information on water reuse?
If you need more information about water reuse in Texas, please contact Erika Mancha at 512-463-7932.