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Water School

What can be done to remove pharmaceuticals from drinking water?

While water treatment plants can remove some chemicals, at this time, wastewater systems are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals.  At this point, the best way to reduce the number of chemicals in our water is at their source.Pharmaceuticals enter the water cycle through a variety of sources including drugs that pass through the human body or domestic animals that are not completely absorbed and byproducts of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process.Additionally, improper disposal of old ...
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Are there different kinds of bottled water?

Artesian, spring, well and ground water comes from an underground aquifer and may or may not be treated. Well and artesian water are tapped through a well.Spring water is collected as it flows to the surface, and ground water can be either.Distilled water comes from steam from boiling water that is condensed. Distilling kills microbes and removes minerals, giving water a “flat” taste.Drinking water is simply intended for human consumption and can come from a variety of sources, including publi...
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What is the difference between water from my faucet and bottled water?

The main difference between water from a faucet and bottled water is the source. Water from your faucet comes from a local source - ground or surface water that is treated for contaminants at a municipal plant before it is sent through pipes to your home. In the case of some rural residents, water is drawn directly from the ground through nearby wells and may or may not be treated in a home-based system.Bottled water can come from anywhere across the country, ranging from artesian wells to ...
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What is desalination?

Desalination is the process of removing dissolved minerals (including total dissolved solids, chlorides, and others) from water to produce potable water for human consumption or fresh water for industrial use. The two most popular methods are thermal and membrane technologies.In the thermal process, salty water is heated to make vapor, which is condensed and collected as fresh water leaving the minerals behind. Membrane processes use high pressure to filter water through permeable membranes...
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Occasionally, my water has an offensive odor and taste? Why?

The woody, musty, earthy taste that shows up from time to time in our drinking water is normally due to natural causes. The main culprit: algae. When blue-green algae end their lifecycle they emit an oily substance called geosmin, which has a distinctive earthy taste that humans can detect in even small concentrations. While this added flavor in drinking water can be annoying, it poses no health hazard.While water utilities have long worked to reduce the prevalence of the offensive taste and odo...
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What makes water hard or soft?

The mineral content determines whether your elements' water is either “hard” or “soft.”  The higher the mineral content, the harder the water. Minerals affecting water hardness can include calcium and magnesium bicarbonate or calcium sulfate, calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate and magnesium chloride.The harder the water, the more soap is needed to make foam or lather. Hard water also produces scale in hot water pipes, heaters, boilers and other places where the ...
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Where does my water come from?

Your water comes from either a nearby reservoir, stream, or from groundwater.  Where your water originates depends largely on where you live. Water sources can vary between surface water and ground at different locations within a relatively small geographical area. Many municipalities blend both surface water and groundwater together before sending it to your home.The State of Texas requires that your water provider inform you of where your water originates.  Most providers send t...
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Why must I buy water? If water belongs to the state, why is it not provided free of charge?

Water rights are issued by the State of Texas with a small annual fee necessary to pay the costs of the permitting program at the issuing agency.  In many cases the State of Texas has created special districts, such as the Brazos River Authority, to develop and manage surface water supplies.The cost of building and maintaining dams and reservoirs, and all the other costs for managing water supplies, is not paid by the state and is not supported by any tax revenue.  The revenue to pay those costs...
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What is a water supply permit?

In Texas, a water supply permit is an authorization from the state to use surface waters for a beneficial use.  Water supply permits are granted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  In some counties, groundwater districts are authorized to issue water supply permits for the use of groundwater.
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What is mineral water?

Mineral water is naturally occurring or prepared water that contains dissolved minerals, elements or gasses, often used therapeutically. Several Brazos River basin towns built industries around local mineral water and its purported healing powers towards the end of the nineteenth century. Those cities included Mineral Wells, Marlin, Waco and others.
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What is a tributary?

A tributary is a small river or stream that merges or flows into a larger river or stream. A river typically has several tributaries.Numerous tributaries feed into the Brazos River including the Clear, Salt and Double Mountain forks of the Brazos as well as the Navasota, Bosque, Nolan, and Little rivers and Yegua Creek. In addition, those tributaries each have several sub-tributaries, including numerous creeks as well as the Leon and San Gabriel Rivers, among others.
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What is an oxbow?

An oxbow is a severe bend in a river channel creating a “U” shape and leaving a very narrow strip of land between the two bends.  Many times, erosion will wear through this narrow strip and the course of the river changes leaving a “U” shaped or oxbow lake or a dry riverbed. 
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What is an off-channel reservoir?

An off-channel reservoir is a water supply lake built next to or near a river.  Off-channel reservoirs are considered by some to be environmentally friendly, lessening the impact on fish and other wildlife by avoiding the need to place a large dam directly on the main stem of the river.An example of an off-channel reservoir is the Brazos River Authority’s planned and permitted Allens Creek Reservoir, near Houston. For more information about Allens Creek, click here.
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What is a channel?

A channel is a watercourse or path taken by a river, creek or brook. It may be natural or man-made and includes a definite bed and banks that directs the flow of water.
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What is a wetland?

Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present at or near the soil’s surface for most or all of the year. Wetlands provide a habitat for a variety of plants and animals and can serve as a natural water filter.Man-made wetlands have been developed to treat water coming from an outside source, such as a river, before it enters a water treatment program.
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What is an estuary?

An estuary is a place where fresh and salt water mix, for example, a bay, salt marsh or where a river enters the ocean or Gulf of Mexico.The Brazos River estuary is located on the upper Texas coast and is a riverine estuary that flows directly into the Gulf of Mexico rather than into a system of bays. Riverine estuaries, like the Brazos River estuary, are unique in that the area of the estuary is dependent on freshwater inflows versus typical bay like estuaries that are also influenced by evapor...
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What is a watershed? A subwatershed?

A watershed is the land area or topographic region that drains into a particular stream, river, or lake. This land feature can be identified by tracing a line on a map along the highest elevations between two areas.Large watersheds may contain hundreds or thousands of smaller subwatersheds that drain into the river or other waterbody. The Brazos River watershed encompasses more than 42,000 square miles and includes many smaller streams and rivers with their own smaller watersheds.
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Besides drinking, how is water used?

Did you know that water will never laugh at puns or jokes because it is not a fan of dry humor?Besides the most obvious use of water for drinking, the precious resource is also used for multiple other practices that don’t regularly cross our minds. This includes domestically in our homes, agriculturally for our food, and industrially in business.Water in our homes can be used to bathe, cook, wash dishes and clothes, keep pools clean and full, water grass and lawns and flush toilets. Accord...
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What are total dissolved solids?

Total dissolved solids, or TDS, are the amount of minerals that remain when a water sample is completely evaporated, such as the water spots on your glassware.  TDS is a measurement of all organic and sometimes inorganic solids in water and is reported as milligrams per liter (mg/l). TDS includes elements and organic compounds such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates.  TDS is used as a general indicator of water quality.
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What does brackish mean?

Brackish is a term used to describe water that contains more dissolved minerals (see total dissolved solids) than normally acceptable for municipal, domestic and agricultural uses. It has a higher amount of dissolved solids than fresh water but not as high as saltier types such as seawater.Brackish water includes concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 milligrams per liter (mg/l).
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What are the benefits of wetlands?

Wetlands provide a habitat for a variety of plants and animals that would fare poorly in other environments. They also provide water storage, functioning like a sponge, storing water and slowly releasing it. This helps ease water’s potential for flooding and erosion. The slow release also contributes to surface water flow during dry periods.Wetlands also can act as a natural water filtration system. As the water enters the wetland, its movement slows around plants, which allows suspended sedime...
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What type of water transportation systems does the Brazos River Authority operate?

The BRA operates two pipeline systems that transport water from reservoir storage to areas where it is needed. The Williamson County Regional Water Line carries raw water from Lake Stillhouse Hollow to Lake Georgetown, serving the residents of Georgetown, Round Rock, and the Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District. The East Williamson County Water Transmission Line moves water supply from Lake Granger to a potable water treatment plant.
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How many potable water treatment plants are run by the Brazos River Authority and whom do they serve?

The Brazos River Authority owns and operates the East Williamson County Regional Water System serving the cities of Taylor, Hutto and Thrall, the Jonah Special Utilities District and the Nowak Water Supply Company. The BRA also contracts to operate the Sandy Creek Water Treatment Plant in Leander and the Lee County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1, serving the community of Dime Box.
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How many wastewater treatment plants are run by the Brazos River Authority and whom do they serve?

The Brazos River Authority operates the Temple-Belton Wastewater Treatment System as well as wastewater treatment centers for the cities of Hutto, Sugar Land, Dime Box, Clute and Richwood. Other operations include the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater System, which serves the cities of Round Rock, Cedar Park, Austin and the Fern Bluff and Brushy Creek municipal utility districts.
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What is the Brazos River basin?

The Brazos River basin covers a swath across Texas more than 600 miles long, beginning near the Texas-New Mexico Border and ending at the Gulf of Mexico in Brazoria County.The basin includes all or part of 70 Texas counties within 42,000 square miles and includes numerous smaller tributary rivers including the Double Mountain, Salt and Clear Forks, the Paluxy, Bosque, Nolan, Little, and Navasota Rivers and dozens of smaller rivers and tributaries.For a full-sized map, click here.
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What is a water supply lake?

As the name implies, water supply lakes are built primarily to provide a place to store water for Texas residents, communities, businesses, agriculture, industry and others who all depend on water to survive and thrive. Such lakes are especially vital during periods of drought, when other sources of water may be limited.  Many of Texas’ flood control lakes serve a secondary purpose as a water storage facility.  However, reservoirs designed for water supply, do not necessarily also provide flood...
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What is a dam? Are all dams alike?

A dam is a structure designed to hold back water in a lake, river, stream or other waterbody. Large dams typically include gates or other outlet devices that can be raised or lowered, opened or closed to allow variable amounts of water to pass downstream or leave the lake. The path the water takes to leave the reservoir through the gates is called a spillway.There are several styles of dams used for different purposes to meet specific conditions at the dam site.  The design of the dam is in...
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What is “beneficial use?”

Beneficial use represents the amount of water necessary when reasonable intelligence and diligence are used for a stated purpose authorized by a water rights permit. Such uses include watering crops, municipal, mining, and industrial use.Beneficial use results in a gain or benefit to the user and society, which is consistent with state law. Most states recognize the following uses as beneficial: domestic and municipal, industrial, irrigation, mining, hydroelectric power, navigation, stock r...
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What is salinity?

Salinity or chloride concentration, refers to the amount of salt dissolved or contained in water. The higher the salinity, the less useful the water is for human consumption, agriculture and other uses.The Brazos River particularly in the upper part of the watershed, contains a high amount of salinity due to a naturally occurring underground salt deposits located northwest of Abilene.  As a result, surface water in some areas of the Brazos River must be treated to remove the amount of salt befor...
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Why are there so many man-made lakes in Texas?

Natural lakes have been a rare commodity in Texas. In fact, the state had only one natural lake, Caddo Lake in East Texas, that was formed by a log jam.  A permanent dam was installed at the lake in the early 20th century.A large number of the state’s remaining lakes were made in response to the occasional propensity of Texas’ usually tranquil rivers to flood during heavy rains.Texas’ early history is filled with accounts of devastating floods causing loss of human life an...
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How do you build a lake (reservoir)?

While the process may vary for each location, here’s a general outline of how a reservoir goes from idea to reality.Once a need for water in an area is established, a site for the reservoir must be chosen. Several factors go into this decision, including nearness to a source of demand, a feeder supply of water (such as a river or creek), the geological suitability of the area and engineering constraints. Other factors considered could include impact on the environment, the local population...
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What is a flood control lake?

The great majority of our lakes (reservoirs) in Texas were built to help tame the state’s rivers and streams, which from time to time would swell beyond their banks and cause devastating floods. Such was the case with the Brazos River. History books record numerous destructive floods took place in the Brazos basin before a series of dams were built along its length to create reservoirs to hold periodic flood waters.
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What is mean sea level?

Mean sea level is the average height of the ocean’s surface, between high and low tide. It is used as a standard in reckoning land and other elevations such as lake levels. A lake’s conservation pool will be measured as a certain number of feet above mean sea level.
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How deep is my lake?

Periodically, officials conduct surveys of reservoirs within the Brazos River basin to determine each lake’s volume. As part of that work, survey crews determine each lake’s depth (in feet). Do not confuse this measurement with lake level, however.A reservoir’s depth is the distance from the bottom to the top of the conservation pool, the point where the lake is considered full. The lake level is the number of feet the surface is above mean sea level.Surveys use a combinat...
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I’ve heard that reservoirs have a “lifetime.” What does that mean?

Texas streams and rivers are in constant motion and the waters they pour into our reservoirs carry with them a continuous but varying amount of sediment.When the water is slowed or stopped as it runs into a reservoir or by a dam, the sediment drops to the bottom. This sediment builds up year after year and at some point, fills the reservoir to a point it can no longer continue to serve its purpose in flood control or water supply. Without expensive dredging, this would be the end of the res...
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What is yield?

Yield refers to the amount of water produced by a water treatment process or the quantity of water that can be collected for a given use from surface or groundwater sources. The yield may vary depending on the proposed use, the development plan, location of the water source, and economic considerations.
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What is a flood pool?

A flood pool is a specified area within a flood control lake and the surrounding land that may only be inundated during periods of flooding. This allows the flow of waters to be regulated and released in a safe manner.
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What is appropriation doctrine?

This doctrine has its roots in the 1800s, when Texas officials determined riparian doctrine did not address the needs of more arid parts of the state. Since the late 19th century, land acquired from the state has used prior-appropriation doctrine instead of riparian when considering water rights.Under this approach, water rights are based on seniority.  In other words, one’s water rights are based on the date one applied for the right, with older claimants having seniority. However, those pre-e...
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Who has water rights in Texas?

Water rights in Texas are complicated.  They date back to Spanish colonial law, but also include influences from English common law, a history of state legislation as well as judicial decisions. Water rights in Texas are further complicated because ground and surface water rights are approached differently. Generally, water rights law determine who can use water, how much may be used and for what purpose.
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What is water rights adjudication?

Different laws for surface water use have led to conflicting claims over time. In 1967, the Texas Legislature directed a predecessor of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to settle claims. The agency looked at all claims and issued certificates of adjudication for those they approved. Each was assigned a priority date that determined the claimant’s seniority for water rights.
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The information provided on this site is intended as background on water within the Brazos River basin. There should be no expectation that this information is all encompassing, complete or in any way examines every aspect of this very complex natural resource.

If you have questions about a post or would like additional information, please contact us or call 888-922-6272.

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