Best idea: Making water quality a regional goal

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JULIA HUNT, PE
DIRECTOR OF WATER UTILITIES
ARLINGTON, TEXAS

Although Lake Arlington was built to supply the 365,000 residents of Arlington, Texas, with drinking water, its 143-square-mile watershed includes 11 cities and two counties almost entirely outside Arlington city limits. So when it rains, excess storm-water dumps litter from outside the community into the lake.

To improve and preserve water quality, Julia Hunt developed a master plan that encouraged community input. Over 18 months, her department would talk with all residents in the watershed, emphasizing the lake's primary purpose as a drinking water source over its secondary role as a recreational facility. Because it borders the lake's opposite shoreline, she invited colleagues from the City of Fort Worth to participate in presentations to the public.

“We had two meetings with watershed cities and counties,” says Hunt. “We invited staff to talk about how stormwater pollution directly impacts the streams and creeks that feed the lake.”

Arlington and Fort Worth now sponsor annual cleanups. “We supply the trash bags, volunteers are assigned different locations, and everyone goes out for four hours to pick up trash,” says Hunt.

Hunt's plan identifies other water quality solutions as well, including education programs for residents of the watershed cities. Arlington and Fort Worth are working on a pilot program to test booms and nets that would collect trash in streams feeding the lake.

Long-term plans call for limiting nutrient overload from runoff and using reclaimed water to conserve resources. “We recently constructed the first phase of a reclaimed water line,” says Hunt. “We're buying highly treated waste-water effluent from Fort Worth to irrigate golf courses, a sports complex, and our landfill. And we plan to extend the pipeline to our entertainment corridor for businesses to use outdoors.”