What We Do
A team of more than 300 water professionals in the Drinking WaterOperations (DWO) Branch,led by Senior Assistant Director Dannelle H. Belhateche, P.E., ensures that 2.8 million citizens receive high quality drinking water at sufficient pressure to meet their daily needs. Composed of a variety of technical groups, DWO is staffed and resourced to meet this challenge everyday, 24/7. DWO is responsible for protecting our regional water supply, operating and maintaining three water purification plants and 92 ground water pumping stations. Houston’s water system is spread across a four-county, 600 square mile area, making it one of the most complex water systems in the nation.
Our Water Quality Group monitors the quality of our drinking water and meets or exceeds requirements of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. Environmental investigators collect water samples throughout our drinking water system to be analyzed by water quality laboratory chemists. Water Quality investigators respond promptly to customers’ water quality questions or concerns.
Professional engineers, project managers and scientists evaluate current water demands and develop plans and budgets for future infrastructure needs. The DWO public outreach team provides water education to students, educators and community groups, and organizes the City’s Annual Water Festival to encourage citizens to protect our water resources. Water operators and maintenance crews work around the clock to ensure the facilities and systems are in good working order.
Water Quality and Public Health
Houston Drinking Water Meets or Exceeds Federal and State Regulations
Our number one priority is protecting public health by supplying citizens with high quality drinking water. DWO water professionals proudly produce some of the best quality drinking water in the nation and continually meet or exceed state and federal drinking water regulations.
Municipal water utilities are required to monitor for more than 100 contaminants and comply with almost 90 water quality and safety regulations. Because of these regulations, Houston water customers can confidently use our water supply without fear of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery that strike millions annually in underdeveloped countries.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rates the City of Houston drinking water system as a “Superior Water Supply System,” the highest water quality rating awarded to a water utility.
The City of Houston is a member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA). DWO water professionals actively participate in AWWA water quality research projects to help optimize and improve drinking water operations. Participating in AWWA programs such as the Partnership for Safe Water ensures that preventative measures are being optimized at treatment plants to protect against microbiological contamination.
As part of a public utility, Drinking Water Operations is required to inform at-risk consumers of potential drinking water contaminants. This information is included in the attached Consumer Confidence Report.
At-risk citizens may be more vulnerable than the general population to certain microbial contaminants such as Cryptosporidium, in drinking water. Those potentially effected include; infants, some elderly or immune-compromised persons such as those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer; those who have undergone organ transplants; those who are undergoing treatment with steroids and people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders.
DWO has been monitoring for the presence of Cryptosporidium on our source water and treated water systems for some time. There have been no detected organisms over the past 12 consecutive months, or in previous years. So Houstonians can feel confident that their drinking water is safe to drink and is free of all harmful microbial contaminants.
For more information, read the Annual Customer Confidence Report contained on our website.
Source Water Protection
Source Water Protection is the practice of monitoring and assessing the quality of our water resources, and implementing programs that reduce pollutants and chemical contaminants which could potentially negatively impact these resources. Protecting water resources from contaminants also eliminates the need for supplementary treatment procedures, and can delay the cost of new infrastructure and related increases in water rates.
Local lakes and rivers supply the City of Houston surface water resources. Seventy-one percent of our supply flows from the Trinity River into Lake Livingston, and from the San Jacinto River into Lake Conroe and Lake Houston. Deep underground wells drilled into the Evangeline and Chicot underground aquifers currently provide the other 29 percent of the City’s water supply.
Protecting the Water Supply
The Source Water Protection Group partners with numerous government agencies to protect and monitor the rivers, lakes, wetlands and watersheds that empty into the City’s drinking water reservoirs. Real-time monitoring systems detect contaminants at numerous locations enabling technicians and operators to identify potential contaminants within our raw water resources. Encouraging local businesses and community groups to report incidents of illegal discharge or dumping assists with maintaining this protection.
A dedicated team of environmental investigators actively monitors lakes and tributaries for industrial discharges and other contaminants. Investigators collect multiple water samples that are tested for a wide spectrum of microorganisms and pollutants.
What Can You Do to Help?
By 2050, Harris County population is expected to exceed 5.5 million people. It is imperative that all citizens use water wisely to sustain our most important natural resource. Our first line of defense is an educated and informed community. Citizens play an important role in reducing the defense is an educated and informed community. Citizens play an important role in reducing the amount of pollution that enters our water resources. Proper use and maintenance of motorized equipment can eliminate fluids discharges into our waterways. Commercial, industrial and residential development of a lake’s surrounding habitat can lead to the runoff of chemicals, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, as well as human waste from improperly maintained septic systems. Establishing best-management-practices (BMPs) in these areas result in a positive effect to protect water resources.
Water Transmission, Purification and Distribution
Surface water is piped or gravity-fed to one of three DWO surface water purification plants to be treated and disinfected. After the water is tested and meets state and federal drinking water standards, it is delivered to customers throughout a four-county area. For more information on the treatment process Click Here.
Groundwater is pumped from wells that are on average 750 feet deep. Groundwater is pumped to one of five re-pump stations, treated and distributed to customers predominately in the west side of Houston.
Houston Drinking Water Operations currently produces and distributes more than 146 billion gallons of water each year through a 7,000-mile pipeline distribution system.
In 2006 the City of Houston treated an average of 392 million gallons per day (mgd). The majority of this water is used for industrial and manufacturing purposes.
For more information on the surface water plants, please click on the links below.
East Water Purification
Northeast Water Purification Plant
Southeast Water Purification Plant
Ground Water Treatment Process
Houston Water History
In Houston’s early years, citizens resorted to various means to collect and transport water for their home and business use. Read about Houston’s early struggles and major accomplishments of city leaders and water professionals that helped create a reliable, sustainable water system. Click here to read more.
These links provide information concerning other aspects of Drinking Water Operations: