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Monday, February 23, 2009

From the toilet to the tap, baby: My trip to SAWS

This water is in the process of being filtered for public consumption

I spent my Saturday morning taking a tour of my hometown water utility San Antonio Water System (SAWS). The tour was a firsthand look at the utility from my perspective as one of SA’s newest members of the House Committee on Natural Resources. For you foreigners water is huge in Texas so much so, my friend and committee colleague Stephen Frost likes to say: Whiskey is for drinking and Water is for fighting.

SAWS is a dominant player in the water game and I wanted to talk through the issues while viewing their emergency operations center, utility infrastructure and of course their nationally renowned recycled water facility.

I am a lifelong San Antonian and I learned some things about SAWS I didn’t know until yesterday such as the fact that in 2007 SAWS served 50% MORE PEOPLE than they did in 1987 using the SAME AMOUNT of water!

How do they do this you ask? Conservation that’s how.

Filtration system components at the Dos Rios facility

SAWS has become a national leader in recycling sewer waste water for commercial and industrial use. Millions of gallons of recycled water are produced daily at four water recycling centers in San Antonio. Many SAWS customers are using the water for manufacturing like Toyota while others use recycled water to keep our area golf courses in pristine condition like (like our own Brackenridge golf course). SAWS has 64 miles of recycled water pipeline throughout the city.

I was so impressed with this program and you can expect me to introduce legislation expanding SAWS capability of delivering more recycled water throughout San Antonio for our commercial and industrial partners. After all it makes perfect sense to use recycled water where we can in order to save Edwards Water for our personal consumption.

As an added bonus, SAWS releases recycled water into the San Antonio and Medina Rivers helping create an environmental resurgence in the river’s marine ecology. Sewer water in our rivers hmm…..I thought the same thing you did. That was the case until I saw the water quality with my own two eyes.

Yes, that's raw sewage... and that is REALLY the end product

Let me tell you, the water looked almost good enough to drink….No wait, I mean actually it was good enough to drink. Dare to try…come join me and take the toilet to tap challenge????

Salud! SAWS recycled water isn't Evian-- but it's worth a sip!