Wetlands Help Arlington Provide Safe, High-Quality Drinking Water
By Traci Peterson
Posted on November 20, 2017, November 20, 2017

Wetlands Help Arlington

About 90 miles from Arlington, nature is helping ensure the city's more than 380,000 residents have safe, high-quality drinking water. The George W. Shannon Wetlands near Corsicana was built by the Tarrant Regional Water District, Arlington's raw water supplier, to help meet the growing demands for water in Tarrant County and 10 other counties. It is located along the banks of the Trinity River adjacent to Richland Chambers Reservoir, within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area. The project was completed in 2013. Recently, water utilities staff from Arlington, Fort Worth, and Mansfield, as well as Tarrant County Master Gardeners, toured the site.

What do wetlands have to do with Arlington? The connection is an illustration of what is called the urban water cycle. Arlington purchases water from the Tarrant Regional Water District to treat and distribute to homes, schools, and businesses. About 85 percent of the water Tarrant Regional Water District supplies to cities comes from Richland-Chambers Reservoir and Cedar Creek Reservoir, both southeast of Tarrant County. After water is used by Arlington residents, it is treated by the Trinity River Authority and put back into the Trinity River. Water is pumped from the Trinity River into the wetlands to begin a natural treatment process that removes sediment, phosphorus and other constituents from the water. After treatment the wetlands water is put into Richland-Chambers Reservoir and the cycle begins again.

Why wetlands? Up to 90 million gallons of water a day can be diverted from the Trinity River, treated by the wetland system, and delivered to Richland Chambers Reservoir. The wetland system treats the water from the Trinity River so that it will not have a negative impact on the reservoir water quality.

"Incorporating a water recycling project into TRWD's water supply system reduces our dependence on reservoirs during times of drought. During the most recent drought in 2014, the wetland system accounted for 20 percent of the District's overall water supply," said Chris Zachry, Wetland Projects Manager for TRWD. "With the success of the Shannon Wetlands, the District plans to construct additional treatment wetlands near Cedar Creek Reservoir in the future."

Treatment occurs as the water travels through 20 vegetated wetland cells that cover 1,730 acres. The wetland system effectively removes as much as 95 percent of the sediment load and 50 to 60 percent of the phosphorus and nitrogen loads from the Trinity River water. The process uses gravity and a series of canals and levees that are designed for maximum effectiveness. The water depth throughout the wetlands is 8 to 12 inches.

Want to know more? The George W. Shannon Wetlands also provides public recreational opportunities and valuable wildlife habitat. To find out more about the project and opportunities to visit, go to the Tarrant Regional Water District website at http://www.trwd.com/water-supply/wetlands/.

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