We have seen quite a bit of much needed rain in the last couple of days, which is encouraging news for our drought conditions. But have you ever wondered how rainwater that falls from the sky turns into tap water that comes out of your faucet?
Even though it may rain right outside your house that water still has a long way to go before you can use it.
The Utility Operation Manager at the Cypress Water Treatment Plant Daniel Nix said "You're talking about tens if not hundreds of miles. Getting on the ground through creeks as it meanders into a lake through the lake through my pipeline and into the city through the treatment plant than depending on where you live here in Wichita Falls. We have seven hundred and fifty miles worth of pipe."
First rainwater has to runoff into one of Wichita Falls' water sheds or lakes.
Nix said "Well we have three main lakes that we use primarily. We have Lake Arrowhead, Lake Kickapoo, and Lake Kemp."
It does not have to rain right next to the water shed or lake. Rainwater can be contained even if it falls miles away from a lake. Nix said rainwater from Foard County can make it to Lake Kemp.
The amount of rain water that actually makes it to the water sheds or lakes depends on the rain's intensity and duration as well as the soil moisture. The amount of water that is contained in the lake depends on the weather conditions.
The General Manager of the Wichita County Water Improvement District 2 Kyle Miller said "Temperatures over a hundred degrees and wind. We'll evaporate over one inch everyday in the summer time."
Once the water is in the lake it is pumped through transmission lines to a holding reservoir. Water is then transferred to the water treatment plant where contaminates are removed. Contaminates are extracted through either reverse osmosis or conventional treatments.
The Water Source Purification Superintendent Mark Southard said "Reverse osmosis is a pressurized system that actually forces water through a membrane. That membrane has extremely small pores that can actually filter out extremely small particles."
Reverse osmosis is specifically used to decontaminate the water from Lake Kemp because of high salt concentrations. The conventional treatments do not filter out the salts and are used to treat the water from Lake Arrowhead and Kickapoo.
Southard said "When you're talking about conventional treatment we first start out with coagulation and sedimentation to help settle out solids and then that water goes through sand filtration."
Even though two very different treatments are used to decontaminate the water, they are both used to purify the water.
Southard said organic compounds, inorganic compounds, and pesticides are all extracted from the water. Officials at the Cypress Water Plant are constantly checking the quality of water to make sure that they meet all of the federal and state requirements.
It's a good thing we have water treatment plants because if the water was not treated we would definitely be able to tell. The water would not be colorless and clear. It would also not be as palatable.
The 2013 drinking water quality report came out earlier this month. It shows that the water being supplied from the city has met all federal and state drinking water health standards. Our water even met the standards from some unregulated substances.