How it all Works

From Flush to River

How it Works & Why You Should Care

It all Comes Back to You

Many people do not understand how the plumbing in their house works, or how the greater wastewater system works. Here we will explain it all and why it is so important to Defend Your Drains.

This page will give you an overview of how all the systems are connected and provide more details about


1. The water I flush comes back to me as drinking water?

Yes. Water that goes down your sink, shower, and toilet go to a large central water treatment plant where it is cleaned and then released into a river or lake. These rivers and lakes are also the same sources for the water treatment plants that take water and clean it again before sending back into the water system that comes back out in your sink, shower, and toilet. This is the water you use to cook, drink, and clean.

This water cycle is nothing new, it has been going on for millions of years. The water we drink today is the same water the aincient Egyptians drank, and the same water dinosours drank millions of years ago.

Nature has it's own water cycle that continually cleans and replenishes our water. Through evaporation and transpiration, condensation, and precipitation (rain), water gets cleaned and refreshed. Our water treatment plants accelerate this process because we would otherwise run out of fresh water in a short time. The Dallas and Fort Worth area has over 7 million people and it takes a lot of water to sustain our amazing cities.

The Water Cycle

2. Isn't Water the most abundant resource on Earth?

While we do have vast oceans of water, only 3% of the water on Earth is fresh water. 97% is salt water, which is not suitable for drinking without a very costly process called desalination (removing salt and minerals). Of the 3% of water on Earth that is considered fresh water, 2% of that is locked in the polar ice caps. This leaves approximately 1% of all water on earth that is suitable for use as drinking water.

It is important to not pollute this limited resource because it is increasingly difficult and costly to remove all pollutants from the waters in our lakes and rivers.

3. If everything goes to the water treatment plant, why does it matter what I put down the drain?

While all your household drains do eventually end up at a water treatment plant that cleans the water before relasing it into a river or lake, there is a long journey through the wastewater system before it gets there and once there, the water treatment systems can't clean every single thing out of the water.

Wipes can get caught in the large pumps that move waste water along the system, and it becomes expensive to repair or constantly clean the intake lines. These costs are passed on to you, the customer through your water bill. Being kind to your pipes saves everyone money.

Many medications are not fully filtered out through the water treatment process. To completely remove everything from wastewater would be incredibly expensive.

Simplified Urban Water Cycle

Water Supply and Wastewater

  1. Water gets pulled from a lake or river as the fresh water source.
  2. Water is cleaned of bacteria and pathogens to make it safe to drink.
  3. Water is delivered to homes and businesses through a complex system of pipes, pumps, and storage tanks.
  4. Wastewater is then collected from homes and businesses and pumped back to wastewater treatment facilities through large pipes.
  5. Wastewater is treated to remove solids, bacteria, and a wide variety of other contaminants.
  6. Treated wastewater is then released back into streams which lead to rivers and lakes, the same ones from step 1.

Image source, US EPA

Water and Wastewater Systems

Water Supply

When you turn on your faucet, water seems to magically appear. But it actually has made a long journey from many miles away to get to your house. Water utilities work to bring clean, safe water into homes and businesses every day.

  1. Water Sources: The source of the water flowing from your tap may be hundreds of miles away. Most water utilities use surface water as their source of water— for example, a lake, river, or reservoir.
  2. Water Treatment: The water utility treats the source water to make sure it's safe. The Safe Water Drinking Act requires EPA to establish and enforce the safety standards that all water utilities must follow. Treatment methods include filtration and disinfection to remove debris and bacteria.
  3. Water Storage and Distribution: After treatment, the water utility may store the water in holding tanks. Eventually, the water is pumped and distributed to communities through water mains—large, buried pipes—and water lines (smaller pipes that run from the main to a residence or business).

Image source, US EPA

Local information:
North Texas Municipal Water District:
Tarrant Regional Water District:
Upper Trinity Regional Water District:

Water and Wastewater Systems

Wastewater System

When you flush the toilet or take a shower, the water seems to magically disapear and you never think about it again. But where does it go?

  1. Household wastewater pipes: All the drains in your house combine into one pipe that exits your house and leads to a larger pipe in the street. This pipe collects wastewater from all your neighbors and leads to a larger pipe that connects to the main wastewater sewer system.
  2. Water Treatment: After traveling on average about 30 miles, your waste water reaches the water treatment facility where solids are removed and the water is cleaned through a multi-step process.
  3. Water Release: After treatment, the water is released back into a stream, river, or directly into a lake. The water that is released at this point is often cleaner than the waters it is being released into.

Original Image source, US EPA

Local information:
Trinity River Authority:
North Texas Municipal Water District:
Tarrant Regional Water District:

Water and Wastewater Systems

How can you prevent sewer back ups?

Easy steps to Defend Your Drains

By practicing these three simple actions, you can prevent grease clogs and help protect our water quality.

1. Wipe pans and plates into the trash before washing.

Use a paper towel to wipe greasy pots, pans, and plates before placing them in the dish washer or washing them in the sink. When you do hand wash greasy kitchen ware, be sure to use COLD water so that even the small amounts of fats, oils, or grease don't get a chance to cling to pipes before hardening.

2. Take advantage of local drop-off facilities

You can collect your used cooking oil in a sealable container with a screw top lid and then take it to one of the regional drop-off locations so we can collect and recycle the used cooking oil.

It's a win-win!

3. Remember the 3 Ps.

The toilet should only be used for three things; Pee, Poop, and toilet Paper.

Wipes - even "flushable" wipes - belong in the trash and should not be flushed down your toilet.

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