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Water that is now processed through Harlingen's sanitary sewer system and dumped into the Arroyo Colorado is an untapped resource, Gunn said.
Building Code, which allowed that practice, he said.
Drought reality returning
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Some Harlingen city parks use well water, some use treated city drinking water and others use canal water, he said.
But building inspectors are most likely to issue homeowners a citation if their laundry or other drain is affecting their neighbors, Olvera said.
"Obviously we're very conscious of conservation," he said. "We're going to begin to heavily promote the re use of wastewater. Bureau of Reclamation to begin the extension of a re use line into the city and we want to continue that with other projects in the future."
the prolonged drought of the late 1990s, McAllen had "water police" who looked for water waste such lawn sprinklers that flowed onto streets, or people washing driveways with a garden hose, rather than sweeping them with a broom.
"We have about 6 million gallons a day of water that we now release into the Arroyo Colorado," Gunn said. "We would like to re use 100 percent of that. That would offset the use of potable water, particularly for irrigation," he said.
Some homeowners use canal water or wells to irrigate their lawns, Gunn said.
Since last summer, with releases of floodwater from Mexico, "off channel" storage has overflowed the banks of the Arroyo Colorado and the floodway system.
Tony Butler golf course is presently irrigated with irrigation district water, but eventually sewage system effluent will be used, Gunn said.
"The only thing that really has to go into the sewer is the kitchen sink and your commodes.
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But Harlingen adopted the international plumbing code in 2003, which prohibits draining laundry, sink or bath water onto yards, Chief Building Official Eddie Olvera said.
The city already uses effluent from a city sewage treatment plant to irrigate the Treasure Hills golf course, and also uses it at the soccer complex, Gunn said.
Harlingen just relies on property owners to maintain their own plumbing and sprinkler systems to avoid high monthly bills, Gunn said.
"It reduces your demand for potable water and it reduces our sewage treatment cost," Gunn said.
"(Amistad and Falcon lakes) have been full before," he said. "In 1992, the Valley's reservoirs were at capacity, but by 1998, they were at 19 percent capacity."
the use of "gray water" whenever possible, but City Hall, not Harlingen WaterWoks System, controls Rolex Watches For Men Silver plumbing codes, Gunn said.
Cities across the Valley have projects such as Weslaco's "purple pipe" project, and the Laguna Madre Water District's future plans to build a desalination plant. Those efforts are encouraged by the state, Rubenstein said.
Carlos Rubenstein of Brownsville, who was Rio Grande Valley watermaster from 2000 to 2009, is now in Austin serving as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's deputy executive director.
"Gray water is basically the water that comes off your house, off your laundry, your showers, your sinks is considered gray water and the re use of that for irrigation is encouraged if it can be captured and pumped," he said. "Some people just let it run out on their yards," Gunn said.
Gray water and effluent, which is treated water from sewage treatment plants, are two different sources of water, Gunn said.
The city of Harlingen has long had a policy of purchasing as many water rights as possible to ensure the city would have an adequate supply, but McAllen buys its water on the spot market, which makes its water costs much higher during a drought, said Wayne Halbert, general manager of the Harlingen Irrigation District.
That water needs to be conserved as much as possible, such as filling Delta Lake, Harlingen's city lake and Dixieland reservoir, Rubenstein said. But if the water is stored for a long time, evaporation increases its salinity until it is unfit even for crop irrigation, he said.
Cities in the Rio Grande Valley have priority when water becomes scarce during a drought situation, Halbert said. Farmers' water use will be restricted long before cities need to worry about conserving, he said.
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