Tag Archives: water

Let there be water!

One of life’s occasionally uncomfortable experiences involves the unexpected disruptions in the flow of a most valuable — the most valuable — commodity of all.

Water. You turn on the spigot, flush the toilet and you expect the water to flow. It didn’t this morning in our residence in Fairview, Texas.

Our first thought was: Oh, crap! The pipes froze! It was nominally below freezing when we rolled out this morning. The water was trickling out of the sink faucets. Then it stopped altogether.

This is just great! Ah, but then came news that a water main had broken. Virtually the entire town of Fairview was high and dry.

The city got to work. Quickly, indeed. Less than an hour after we awoke, we got word that the water had been restored.

Great day in the morning!

So, what’s the lesson here? It is that the people who fixed our city’s water main — not to mention the city manager, the mayor and the town council — have skin in the game, meaning that their water flow was disrupted, too!

Therefore, they got right on it!

Many thanks from one household. Well done.

'Toilet to tap' not so bad

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┬áswilled some of it this weekend, my concern about drinking┬áwastewater has vanished — more or less.


Warning: The drought ain't over!

I noticed recently that Amarillo’s year-to-date rainfall total is slightly ahead of normal.

That gives some folks comfort. It gives others the mistaken notion that the drought that has grabbed the High Plains by the throat for the past four or five years has abated.

Nothing of the sort has happened.

The Amarillo rainfall total likely will finish around normal by the end of the year. I cannot predict that with any certainty, but it seems like a pretty good bet.

The problem with these droughts is that the depletion of water requires a lot of rainfall and snowfall to make it up in a brief period of time. When I say “a lot,” I mean epic proportions.

I had the pleasure of taking part in a statewide public television reporting project on the state of water in Texas. “Texas Perspective: Water” covered the condition of our water supply from the Panhandle to the Rio Grand Valley, from Deep East Texas to the Trans-Pecos. Everyone interviewed said the same thing: We’re in a drought.

It’s worse in some areas than in others, but statewide the condition of our water supply is at varying levels of precariousness.


It is my fervent hope that Amarillo residents and business owners keep the drought in mind as they go about their day. We can hope for continued rain. Maybe we ought to pray for it.

Let us not be tricked into believing the drought is over just because this year has brought us “normal” amounts of precipitation — which in this part of the world isn’t very much.