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Drinking Water Sources and Pollution in Houston, TX

Water pollution is one of the most important current health concerns in Houston, Texas. Drinking water-primarily comes to the area from Lake Houston and ground waters, which are highly susceptible to bacteria contamination due to the urbanization of the surrounding areas. Groundwater pollution, soil erosion, eutrophication of lakes, and contamination of water sources from waste disposal systems are the major local environmental threats that need to be addressed.

The primary drinking water sources in the area include Lake Houston, Trinity, and San Jacinto Rivers, and groundwaters. 86% of the water supply flows from the Trinity River into Lake Livingston, and from the San Jacinto River into Lake Conroe and Lake Houston, and 14% of the water supply comes from underground wells (Molly, n. d.). Surface water is piped to one of three water purification plants where it is disinfected and tested until it meets state and federal drinking standards. Groundwater is pumped from wells to one of eight water-pressurization plants, treated, and distributed to consumers (Molly, n. d.). The majority of water is supplied for manufacturing and industrial applications.

The pollution of both surface and groundwater presents a serious health challenge in the Houston area. Groundwater becomes contaminated when chemicals, oil, gasoline, road salts, and other man-made products are released into the soil and make their way down into groundwater. The main sources of groundwater pollution include waste disposal systems, septic systems, chemicals, and road salts, mines, and storage tanks (Groundwater Contamination, n. d.). Contaminated groundwater provides a serious health challenge, with potential health effects including dysentery, hepatitis, poisoning, and cancer. In order to prevent contamination, pollution discharge and waste disposal activities should be consistently monitored to be in compliance with the national safety standards.

One of the most important characteristics of surface water is the dissolved oxygen level. Running waters dissolve more oxygen than still waters, and the level of dissolved oxygen is used to establish the level of pollution. Wastewater discharge from sewage treatment plants generally displays the highest levels of dissolved oxygen because they usually contain organic matter that is decomposed by bacteria, with oxygen being used in the process. The level of dissolved oxygen needs to be adequate for aquatic organisms to survive, and for the water to be drinkable.

The decreased levels of dissolved oxygen are linked to lake eutrophication, which is the process when lakes become increasingly enriched with organic matter. It typically happens when a lake receives too many nutrients and sediments from the water flow, which causes an increase in biomass, plant growth, and overall poor water quality. Houston Lake is a eutrophic lake, which affects the quality of water coming from it.

Another factor that affects the quality of water is soil erosion. It typically occurs in overly disturbed soil systems enhanced by unfavorable weather conditions. Soil erosion leads to increased water flow, higher sediment levels, and eutrophication of receiving waters (Issaka & Ashraf, 2016). It can be prevented by planting vegetation and channel construction. In Houston, Buffalo Bayou is the area most susceptible to erosion due to a small number of channels and settlements and a meandering natural course (Petersen et al., 2006). In order to address the problem of erosion, as well as other water pollution concerns, a range of initiatives should be developed on both the state and federal levels.

With the Houston area’s drinking water supplies coming primarily from Lake Houston and underground reservoirs, the increasing level of pollution of both surface and groundwater provides a significant environmental challenge. The most important problems are soil erosion, lake eutrophication, decreased dissolved oxygen levels, and groundwater contamination. The issue should be addressed by conducting thorough research of the current challenges and the development of a comprehensive environmental strategy on both federal and local levels.


Issaka, S., & Ashraf, M. (2016). Impact of soil erosion and degradation on water quality: A review. Geology, Ecology, and Landscapes, 1, pp. 1–11. Web.

Groundwater contamination. (n. d.). Groundwater foundation. 2020, Web.

Molly, D. (n. d.). Drinking water operations. The city of Houston. Web.

Petersen, T., Suarez, M., Hanadi, R., Jensen, P., Su, Y., & Stein, R. (2006). Status and trends of fecal indicator bacteria in two urban watersheds. Water Environment Research, 78, pp. 2340–2355.

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"Drinking Water Sources and Pollution in Houston, TX." StudyKraken, 21 Mar. 2022,

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StudyKraken. "Drinking Water Sources and Pollution in Houston, TX." March 21, 2022.


StudyKraken. 2022. "Drinking Water Sources and Pollution in Houston, TX." March 21, 2022.


StudyKraken. (2022) 'Drinking Water Sources and Pollution in Houston, TX'. 21 March.

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