Recycled Water Quenches San Antonio's Thirst
Gliding along in a flat-bottom boat on the San Antonio River thorough the heart of downtown San Antonio is a beautiful and authentic Texas experience.
There's one thing a boat tour guide is not going to mention, however. Texas is in the middle of a historic drought, and the river that tourists are cruising along with ducks, big bass, catfish and perch is actually treated sewage water.
Despite widespread water restrictions, many large Texas cities and especially their well-to-do suburban neighbors are using up to 200 gallons per person per day. San Antonio is using much less.
"During wet seasons, the river functions like any other river would," says Steve Clouse, the chief operating officer of the San Antonio Water System. "But during the dry seasons, we used to pump from water wells to make sure we had a river — otherwise there wouldn't be water here."
To keep the river flowing, the city used to have to pump up to 5 million gallons a day from its precious supply, the Edwards Aquifer. Now, by using a state-of-the-art water treatment plant, the city produces high-quality, recycled water that's just shy of being drinkable.
San Antonio's River Walk is not alone in using the treatment plant. Big industrial customers like the Toyota manufacturing plant, Microsoft Data Center, USAA Insurance and the city's golf courses also take part. More than 60 miles of recycled-water pipeline built in the last decade now snake through San Antonio.