WICHITA FALLS, Texas — Allow me this pithy observation about something most of us might not quite understand.
It is that treated toilet water doesn’t taste so bad.
How do I know this? We stopped over the weekend in Wichita Falls to eat lunch at a favorite restaurant. The waitress served us water. As I was sipping it, it hit me: The city is treating toilet water, blending it with reservoir water and is serving it to customers such as us: my wife, our son and me.
I had heard about this project about a year ago as the drought and the accompanying water shortage tightened its grip on Wichita Falls, which relies exclusively on two reservoirs that supply its water. No aquifer here. It’s all surface water.
The city has enacted serious water restrictions. No lawn watering. Limited car-washing.
And now it is blending toilet water with reservoir water to reduce its freshwater consumption by about half.
I’m telling ya, it doesn’t taste bad. Not at all.
Panhandle PBS, which employs me as a freelance blogger, did a comprehensive special on the Texas water crisis. It aired in October on several PBS affiliates throughout the state. One of the segments included a look at the Wichita Falls situation, which has gotten quite dire.
Ellen Green of Panhandle PBS interviewed Mayor Glen Barham about what she referred to as the “toilet to tap” program.
You can catch the interview at the 20-minute mark on the attached link.
The city claims good success with the program, which is monitored carefully by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to ensure that it meets state and federal health standards.
So here’s a thought.
Amarillo’s water future isn’t nearly as grim. The city is purchasing lots of groundwater rights and says it has enough water to last another 100 or so years. No one is talking seriously — yet — about water restrictions here.
But wouldn’t it be prudent to think, um, more strategically? I’m wondering if Amarillo would be wise to examine ways to treat our own wastewater into potable water well in advance of there being an actual need to use it.
I’ve long said that I didn’t want to know when I was drinking treated toilet water.
Consider it a change of heart, but having swilled some of it this weekend, my concern about drinking wastewater has vanished — more or less.