The Texas city of more than 104,000, suffering the worst drought on record, is about to become the first place in the U.S. to treat sewage and pump it directly back to residents. People who live in Wichita Falls, northwest of Dallas on the Oklahoma border, say they’ll buy more bottled water and try not to think about what’s flowing through their pipes when they bathe, brush their teeth and make soup.
Other U.S. localities are considering similar approaches as water becomes scarcer — the result of drought, growing populations and greater consumption. The crisis is worldwide. In California, food prices are being driven higher and from Brazil to southeast Asia a historic lack of rainfall is hobbling power and crop production.
Wichita Falls, a sun-baked ranch town that hosts the Hotter’N Hell Hundred endurance bike ride each August, is awaiting final state approval to begin recycling 5 million gallons a day starting next month, said Teresa Rose, deputy public works director. That’s about a third of its usage.