Houston water purification plant among the best in Texas

We take clean drinking water for granted, and probably don't give much thought about how it gets to the faucet. Water headlines are often bad: lead contamination in Flint, Michigan; the failure of a treatment plant in Jackson, Mississippi; even a power outage that forced a boil-water notice in Houston last November. But one of Houston's water purification plants is noted among the state's best.

Houston's Southeast Water Purification Plant is one of three in the city, able to deliver up to 200 million gallons of drinking water each day. That's a good portion of the nearly 500 million daily gallons provided to the whole city, and three surrounding counties, across 7,000 miles of water lines.

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Despite all that activity, the water collected in a series of massive concrete basins is placid. It comes from the Trinity River, through 13 miles of massive pipes. Chemicals are added to bind the sediment in the river water, take it out, and filter it for public consumption. The whole process takes about eight hours. 

"Once that water, which has most of the heavy solids out of it, goes over the tops of the filters, the filters finish it off," says Houston water's Ken Brown. "The water is pristine once it goes over those filters."


If you're inclined to challenge the comment about 'pristine' water, readings at the end of filtration show it's significantly cleaner than standards required for bottled water. It's a badge of honor for the plant, which is one of only seven, in the state, that have met the standards of a Texas optimization program, five years in a row, that encourages performance and efficiency. Proof, say operators, that they're ready to meet the thirsty needs of a growing city. 

"We don't dump a whole lot of chemicals to make the water good," says Brown. "We have to do it in a certain way; we have to change some of our practices, so we are as efficient as possible."

That efficiency is important as the city's water needs continue to grow with expanded purification plans, along with improvements and repairs to the lines that deliver the water. 

Ken Brown says there's plenty of water, for now, that's available to use. It's up to us to use it wisely.