News Feature | September 13, 2014

Man-Made Wetlands Help Utilities Survive The Drought

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,


As severe drought continues to afflict various states, some utilities are relying on a key innovation to help them get through it: man-made wetlands systems. 

"With climatologists predicting longer and more frequent droughts worldwide, the wetland system greatly reduces the pressure on water utilities and their reliance on precipitation," the Associated Press recently reported

A 2000-acre wetlands system between Dallas and Houston is taking treated wastewater and turning it into drinking water. 

"This is stepping back from dependence on rainfall," said David Marshall, head of engineering services for Tarrant Regional Water District, the wetlands operator, in the report. "With potential climate change or long-term droughts, we're at risk, whereas these wetlands firm up a tremendous amount of water supply for us."

The system "converts what is mainly treated wastewater that would otherwise flow into the Gulf of Mexico into an additional 65,000 gallons per day feeding the Richland-Chambers Reservoir — a significant contribution in a state enduring prolonged drought," the AP reported.

One selling point of wetlands is their cost. The system in Texas cost $75 million, which is less expensive than traditional filtering infrastructure, according to the report.  Wetland systems have "piqued the interest of planners from places as far afield as Mexico City and Baghdad, where bombs destroyed the water infrastructure," the report said. 

Man-made wetlands have various functions. In Colorado, they help provide a stormwater solution. 

"Aspen city officials say the new wetlands area at the John Denver Sanctuary just north of Rio Grande Park is doing what it’s designed to do: filter stormwater runoff from the downtown area before it flows back into the Roaring Fork River, and lure locals and visitors to the beauty of the man-made wetlands system," the Aspen Times reported.

Man-made wetlands in Delaware have been admired for their artistry. One pond within the system looks like any old pond up close. But for airplanes flying above it, "this pond looks exactly like a map of Delaware. Its top is curved, the left edge has a 90-degree angle and its right edge snakes haphazardly top to bottom, shaped by the waters of the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean," the USA Today reported

Image credit: "Wetland Water Reflections," mbtphoto (away a lot) © 2008, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license:

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