After three years of extreme drought, the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, is planning on turning wastewater into drinking water.
Mayor Glenn Barham tells NPR that the situation is serious in his North Texas town, where pools can't be filled after being drained and car washes are closed one day a week to save water. Residents have cut their water use by more than a third, Barham said, but the water supply is still likely to run out in two years. To remedy this, a 13-mile pipeline has been built, connecting the city's wastewater plant to the purification plant. Yes, that means that water flushed down the toilet will wind up being cleaned and sent back out through the tap.
City official Daniel Nix stresses that the water will be safe, and that much of it will come not from toilets, but sinks, bathtubs, washing machines, and dishwashers. After the wastewater is treated, it will be mixed with lake water, and undergo further chlorination, filtering, and reverse osmosis. While many residents still believe the plan is "gross," business owner Julia Spence trusts the city. "You do have to give them the benefit of the doubt, because they've done their research, they've spent a whole lot of money, they've tested, tested, tested," she told NPR. "This is where I was born and raised, and I'm not ready to close my business and pack up and move."