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Dripping Springs Effluent Permit

wastewater, dogs, clean water, save water, onion creek, austin, texas

So what’s the deal with Dripping Springs, Texas?

Austin, Texas is a hot spot to live. It’s been growing rapidly the past decade; anywhere in the 50+ mile radius! Dripping Springs, Texas is one of those small communities that has seen exponential growth with new neighborhoods and businesses. Now the hot topic is where the wastewater should end up.

Wastewater is the toilet, sink, shower/bath water in your house that ends up…somewhere. There is a permit pending with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to discharge Dripping Springs’ new wastewater into Onion Creek. It could be treated to the parameters listed below. The only way to see the most recent permit draft is visiting the TCEQ office! Or reading it here (because we requested it)!

What will actually end up in the creek?

You’ll see that the ammonia-nitrogen count is what has lowered in each phase of the permit. This is from poop and pee water and can lead to algae growth and eradicate native plants and animals. No, there will not be toilet paper and turds floating through the creek!

There will be small levels of E. coli and a completely different chemical makeup of the natural creek water. This makes it unsafe to drink and a little sketchy to swim in. A recent study by Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD), the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, the Meadows Center and the city of Austin to figure out where this creek water flows. Turns out it flows into the aquifer within hours, leading to people’s well water – their drinking water. So people are more upset and concerned!

Are there other options?

Short answer, yes. Groups in the area are working to provide non-traditional methods to treat the wastewater and find an alternative solution. The city of Lakeway, Texas is not allowed to discharge into the lake in their community so they evaporate and recycle all of their water! The water utility has “one of the lowest rates in the area.” So it is possible, people!

As proposed, the Dripping Springs wastewater treatment units would include a bar screen, two anoxic basins, two aerobic basins, a final clarifier, three sludge holding tanks, effluent filters, a chlorine contact chamber, and an effluent storage tank. So yeah, lots of steps, but still a very traditional method of treating poop water that leaves some pollutants.

Here’s the Details

The TCEQ permit (draft permit number WQ0014488003) is on iteration #3. The following numbers are based on a 30-day average in the creek. Also note, these are the limits.

Another thing to notice is the amount of water proposed to flow into the creek. It started off at 995,000 gallons per day, then the second draft was half of that. The latest draft is back up to the 995,000 gallons per day.

Pollutant Unit Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (CBOD5) mg/l 5 5 5
total suspended solids (TSS) mg/l 5 5 5
ammonia-nitrogen (NH3-N) mg/l 1.9 1.7 1.2
total phosphorus mg/l 0.15 0.15 0.15
total nitrogen mg/l 6 6 6
colony-forming units (CFU) total units 126 126 126
dissolved oxygen (DO) mg/l 6 6 6
pH pH 6.0-9.0 6.0-9.0 6.0-9.0
chlorine residual mg/l 0.1 0.1 0.1
million gallons per day 0.995 0.4975 0.995


What do you think? Should Dripping Springs keep searching for other alternatives? Or give in to the traditional treatment system?

Let me know in the comments!!


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