Thirsty Texas Town Driven to Drinking Sewage in Drought


The picturesque waterfalls of Wichita Falls, are almost running dry this year, leading officials to seek other options.

Wichita Falls, Texas, is undergoing drastic measures to alleviate the effects of the extreme drought that the region has been facing. Officials have confirmed that they are mixing treated wastewater in with the city’s regular tap water supply because water levels in the area have dropped off by 25 percent in just this year alone. In fact, the city of just over 105,000 residents is currently experiencing a level D4 exceptional drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor, the worst in the country, along with parts of California.

Residents are definitely concerned about drinking or utilizing sewage water, but officials have allegedly thrown up their hands, because there is no other choice, according to Scientific American.

"We recognize reuse is a viable option for the state of Texas as a new source, however it requires an innovative, engineered, site-specific treatment based on the source water used,” said Andrea Morrow, a water quality official at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The program is only being utilized for six months, while residents still are using water from their bathtubs to flush their toilets.

Wichita Falls residents may be (ostensibly) safe, but where in the world is the water truly unsafe? Check out The Daily Meal's 8 Places to Turn Off the Tap

Orange County Water District also started recycling wastewater for everyday usage earlier this year, and filters the water through various microfiltration systems, essentially eliminating bacteria, oils, and solids. The Orange County recycled water has passed all hygienic tests, and the Wichita Falls water is undergoing similar tests.

So what about the gross factor?

"One of the best ways to get past that is perceptual cues — if you can see sparkling fresh, clear water, and taste it, that helps to overcome the concept ... the contagion type thinking decreases with familiarity," Dr. Carol Nemeroff of the University of South Maine told CNN. "If you're desperate you'll override anything for survival." 

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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi