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Leveraging onsite water reuse opportunities such as wastewater, stormwater and graywater

Following the severe drought of 2011-14, Texas has invested considerable resources into deployment of new water resources, including brackish groundwater, treatment and reuse of wastewater, capture/reuse of graywater and rainwater, aquifer water storage and desalination. A handful of large-scale projects have already been built and many more are in the pilot phase.

Among these diverse options, we think that water reuse demands special attention. The greatest predicted growth in water demand statewide is for municipal use, and most of this demand can be met with water sources that do not need to be treated to drinking-water quality. Two examples of this are toilet flushing and outdoor irrigation. These types of water demand can be met with water that is routinely created by urban development, including stormwater and wastewater. Even air conditioning condensate is a viable supply of water for these purposes, and one of the most reliable sources of water we have in Texas.

Tapping these onsite water sources to meet new development water needs is both technically possible and more economical compared to the typical cost of new water infrastructure projects.

This new generation of water reuse technologies is a promising opportunity to re-think basin-wide strategies for meeting future water needs. These onsite projects could “net out” increases in water demand, leaving more water in our rivers and bays. They present an unprecedented opportunity for urban growth to become not just a driver of water demand, but a new source of water supplies.