Where Does Dallas Get Its Water –  And Is It Safe?

Jan 24, 2024 | Artificial Grass

Visitors to Dallas are often surprised by how many abundant lakes there are in the area. Most Dallasites are well familiar with these — after all, they’re the source of our water as well as a great deal of our recreation and leisure facilities.

The City of Dallas area gets its water from six man-made reservoirs mainly in the east and north of the city: Lake Ray Hubbard. Lake Lewisville, Lake Grapevine, Lake Ray Roberts, Lake Tawakoni, and Lake Fork. There are also plans to address increased water consumption by using water in Lake Palestine to the south.

As concerns increase across Texas about water usage and the future availability of this precious resource, it may be timely to educate ourselves about the Dallas water supply: where it comes from, how safe it is, and any steps we can take to reduce water usage in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Here’s what you need to know…

Where does Dallas get its water: a closer look

Dallas-Fort Worth has a population of around 6.5 million and is steadily increasing year on year. By 2060, some reports estimate a population of more than 13 million, with water demand in the area increasing by 86 percent.

That’s a lot of washing, drinking, cooking, and lawn watering to look after, especially when we consider that the area has very few natural lakes — a fact that applies to the State of Texas as a whole.

The lakes that supply water to the city of Dallas are all man-made. Most combine water supply with recreation. Some of these reservoir lakes were originally constructed to assist with irrigation for cotton and cattle farming, which were the mainstays of the local area’s economy right up until relatively recent times.

Here’s a little more information about each of the Dallas water-supply lakes: 

  • Lake Ray Hubbard: a lake in the east of the city created by the construction of the Rockwall-Forney Dam, which impounded the East Fork Trinity River in 1968. Size: 22,745 acres (92 sq. km).
  • Lake Lewisville: A lake in the north of the DFW area, engineered in 1927 as Lake Dallas, expanded in the 1940s/1950s and renamed Lake Lewisville. It was designed for flood control and as a water source. Size: 29,592 acres (120 sq. km).
  • Lake Grapevine: A lake in the northwest of the city well-known for its recreational activities as well as the water it provides. It was impounded in 1952 by the US Army Corps of Engineers when they dammed Denton Creek, a tributary of Trinity River. Size: 7,280 acres (29 sq. km).
  • Lake Ray Roberts: this lake lies to the north of the City of Dallas and is used for recreation as well as water supply. It is home to the Ray Roberts Lake State Park. Size: 29,350 acres (119 sq. km).
  • Lake Tawakoni: another large eastern lake located about 48 miles east of the city. It was constructed in 1960 with the Iron Bridge Dam. Size: 37,879 acres (153 sq. km).
  • Lake Fork: a lake also to the east of the city, impounded by the Lake Fork Dam in 1980 and best known for its bass fishing. Size: 27,264 acres (110 sq. km).

Lake Palestine, which is a long lake 90 miles to the southeast of Dallas, can also be used to supply Dallas’s future water needs as demand increases. It is currently being connected to the Dallas system.

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Is Dallas water safe?

The city of Dallas’s water supply comes entirely from surface water i.e., from reservoirs or rivers. No groundwater (from wells) is used even though Dallas is located on an aquifer (water-bearing, permeable rock).

Once Dallas water is pulled from the six surrounding lakes, it is treated at one of three water treatment plants (more about these below), During this process, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia (chloramine) is used to disinfect water rather than chlorine alone, which can cause a reaction in the water that leaves byproducts.

The water then travels through miles and miles of municipal piping before entering the plumbing system in your home and pouring out of the taps. 

It may not be 100 percent pristine by the time it reaches your home but it is generally considered safe to drink and use for all household requirements. State and federal governments set standards for water safety and require testing for the presence of many potential contaminants. 

Dallas’ water meets or exceeds them all and tests the water 40,000 to 50,000 times every month to a level that exceeds government requirements. 

At the state level, Dallas-Fort Worth has been designated a Superior Public Water System, which is the highest rating given by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It requires safe and reliable water, as well as adequate oversight, effective planning and preparedness, good housekeeping/maintenance, and adequate storage capacity, among other things.

Texas uses external contractors (rather than the system itself) to assess the state of water systems, which means that assessments are considered objective and fair.

Texas Drinking Water Watch even allows you to check the database on public water systems and water quality in the state. Dallas has had very few water quality violations in the past two decades.

The city of Dallas has also been recognized at a federal level by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its quality water supply. 

Dallas has twice won the EPA’s Region 6 Environmental Excellence Award for Public Water Supply, which covers the states of Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico.

How is drinking water treated in Dallas?

Dallas Water Utilities (DWU) treats drinking water with chemicals, settling, filtering, and disinfection processes to ensure that it is pure and safe to drink.

Water treatment is performed at one of three primary DWU plants: East Side, Elm Fork or Bachman.

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Chemicals used to treat Dallas water include:

  • Chlorine and ammonia (chloramine) or ozone to disinfect the water
  • Lime and iron sulfate to remove suspended solids in the water/corrosion control
  • Activated carbon to control offensive tastes and odors
  • Fluoride to help prevent tooth decay 

Because of the comprehensive treatment it receives before entering our homes and businesses, Dallas water is not only considered safe to drink but also non-corrosive, meaning that it is less likely to cause lead to leach from pipes and into the water supply.

Is water recycled in Dallas?

When water disappears down the drain in your Dallas home, it is pumped through to one of DWU’s two wastewater treatment plants: Central and Southside.

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Once the Dallas wastewater has been cleaned, it is returned to the Trinity River, where it flows downstream. Other cities also use the Trinity River for water supply so many are using recycled water that’s already been used in Dallas!

This is only possible because of the stringent cleaning and safety measures taken at the Dallas wastewater plants, which return the water to the river in a cleaner condition than when it was pulled from one of the six reservoirs.

Drought conditions and the need to conserve water in Dallas

When you look at the map of all the lakes surrounding the City of Dallas, it may seem that we could never exhaust our water supply.

But drought is a problem in many areas of Texas and Dallas needs to be careful. There were warnings this year that the drought in northern Texas is expanding – parts of Wise, Denton, Tarrant, and Parker counties have been in extreme drought. 

Other areas of the state are in even greater trouble with their water supply.

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Home and business owners in Dallas must use water wisely. We cannot always rely on purification and pumping, which gets increasingly expensive as energy costs rise. Wastewater charges are usually higher than the water usage portion of water bills for Dallas homeowners.

Unless water usage is controlled carefully, infrastructure expansion (primarily water treatment facilities and delivery systems) will be required and additional water resources (new reservoirs) will increase household water costs.

The DWU is aware of the need to plan well ahead for the water supply. The 2014 Dallas Long Range Water Supply Plan outlined water management strategies through 2070, with strategies including conservation, reuse, new surface water supplies, and emergency water management plans.

It’s time, then, to consider ways that Dallas households can cut down on water usage…

How can homeowners save water in Dallas?

Conserving water is the responsible thing to do for homeowners. It will model good behavior to the next generation as we learn to take greater care of the environment. This is quite apart from the significant potential cost savings on the monthly water/wastewater bills. 

The average Texas resident uses 92 gallons of water per day in and around their home. So, which activities will save the most water in Dallas?

Drinking water, cooking, and keeping ourselves clean are necessities for which there is only minimal scope to reduce water usage.

Instead, Dallas Water Utilities notes that “outdoor water usage can be more than 50% of our total summer water use” and recommends steps to conserve water primarily outside the home:

The DWU ordinance suggests:

  • Maximum twice-weekly watering.
  • Don’t water yards between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. between April 1 and October 31.
  • Hand water or use a soaker hose any day.
  • Maintain and repair sprinkler systems.
  • Install rain and freeze sensors for automatic sprinkler system owners.
  • Don’t water during any form of precipitation.
  • Don’t allow sprinkler systems to water driveways, sidewalks, and streets.
  • Don’t waste water by allowing runoff onto a street or other drainage area.

The North Texas Council reports that twice weekly watering will extend the water supply by 10 years, even with the growing population. But is that enough? The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also forecasts long droughts interrupted by short bursts of heavy rainfall in the future, which could worsen water shortages.

Another solution?

Install artificial grass. This uses no water and, once installed, your lawn remains green and pristine all year round with very little maintenance. The most that a synthetic grass lawn will need is some debris collection, an occasional spray with a hose, and regular checks if you have dogs.

You can save a large volume of water by switching to an artificial grass lawn. While there are some upfront costs involved in installing synthetic turf,  it’s a guaranteed way to conserve water, shave a large chunk off your water bill, and free up weekends and evenings spent tending the yard.

Ready to switch to artificial grass?

Now you know where your local water comes from and how safe it is to drink, it’s also important to know what you can do to conserve water.

One of the best ways to instantly lower water usage is to stop watering the lawn two or three times a week and switch to artificial turf. It also has many other benefits for Dallas homeowners.

Talk to an artificial grass professional at DFW Turf Solutions in Dallas to discuss your options.

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