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Dos Rios Water Recycling Center

The Dos Rios Water Recycling Center: A Pinnacle of Sustainable Water Management


Water is an indispensable resource, and properly managing wastewater is crucial for the health of our communities and environment. The Dos Rios Water Recycling Center, located in San Antonio, Texas, is an exemplary model of innovation, sustainability, and community engagement in wastewater management.

Overview and Geographic Setting

The Dos Rios Water Recycling Center is strategically situated along the banks of the Medina River, serving as a vital component of the San Antonio Water System (SAWS). Since its inception, the center has been committed to improving regional water quality, and its contributions extend to regional agricultural, industrial, and urban water needs.

Population Served

Dos Rios serves a burgeoning population of over 1.8 million residents within the Great San Antonio area. The expansive catchment, including surrounding smaller communities, accentuates the center’s importance. A significant portion of the treated water also supports local businesses, schools, and recreational facilities, underscoring the center’s integral role in community sustainability.

Wastewater Volume and Treatment Capacity

Handling an astronomical volume of wastewater, the Dos Rios facility processes an average of 200 million gallons per day (MGD), with peak capacities reaching up to 228 MGD during heavy rainfall and stormwater influxes. This high capacity is facilitated by advanced treatment technologies and extensive infrastructure designed to meet both current and future water treatment demands.

Treatment Technologies

The multi-stage treatment process at Dos Rios Water Recycling Center ensures that the recycled water meets stringent environmental and health standards. The main stages include:

  1. Preliminary Treatment: Large debris and grit are removed using bar screens and grit chambers to protect subsequent processes.
  2. Primary Treatment: Sedimentation tanks allow for the settling of solid particles, which are then removed as sludge.
  3. Secondary Treatment: Employing biological reactors, this stage utilizes activated sludge processes where beneficial microorganisms break down organic pollutants.
  4. Tertiary Treatment: This stage includes advanced filtration and disinfection processes like ultraviolet (UV) treatment and chlorine disinfection, ensuring the highest quality of recycled water.

Each of these stages is constantly monitored for efficiency and effectiveness, leveraging modern sensor technologies and automated control systems.

Recent Developments and Local News

In recent years, Dos Rios Water Recycling Center has drawn significant attention for its contributions to the community and its pioneering projects. Some key highlights include:

Expansion Initiatives

In response to population growth and increased water demand, Dos Rios undertook a multi-million-dollar expansion project in 2021. This expansion incorporated additional treatment basins and advanced membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology, enhancing both capacity and water quality delivered.

Awards and Recognition

The center has been lauded with numerous accolades, including the “Utility of the Future Today” recognition by the Water Environment Federation (WEF). This award celebrates utilities that are forward-thinking and successfully address challenges through sustainable practices and innovative technologies.

Addressing Climate Change

With an increasing focus on climate resilience, Dos Rios has implemented measures to mitigate the impact of extreme weather events. In 2022, Dos Rios launched a climate adaptation program aimed at reinforcing infrastructure to manage flooding risks and ensure uninterrupted operations during extreme weather conditions.

Key Projects

Several groundbreaking projects underscore the innovative spirit of the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center:

The Bioenergy and Nutrient Recovery Project

This project aligns with the center’s commitment to sustainability by transforming biosolids into renewable energy and recovering valuable nutrients. Utilizing anaerobic digesters, the facility produces biogas that is converted into electricity, enough to power a significant portion of the center’s operations. Additionally, the generated bio-solids are treated to produce high-quality fertilizers, promoting circular economy principles.

Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)

To counter droughts and ensure a stable water supply, Dos Rios has actively engaged in the SAWS’—Aquifer Storage and Recovery program. Excess treated water is injected into the Edwards Aquifer during low-demand periods and extracted during droughts. This practice ensures long-term sustainable management of water resources, benefiting both human and ecological systems.

Public Reuse Initiatives

A noteworthy venture is the center’s public reuse program, where treated effluent is offered to local golf courses, parks, and industrial entities. This initiative conserves potable water resources by providing an environmentally-friendly alternative for non-potable applications, including irrigation, cooling, and industrial processes.

Community Engagement and Education

Community involvement is a cornerstone of the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center’s philosophy. Active engagement and education programs cultivate public awareness, understanding, and support for water recycling and sustainability.

Educational Outreach

The center hosts regular educational tours for schools, community groups, and stakeholders. Through interactive exhibits and guided walks, visitors learn about the comprehensive wastewater treatment process, the importance of water conservation, and environmental stewardship. These programs play a crucial role in fostering a well-informed and environmentally-conscious community.

Public Meetings and Transparency

Transparency and public participation are fundamental to the center’s operations. Dos Rios routinely organizes public meetings and forums where community members can voice their opinions, ask questions, and provide feedback on ongoing and upcoming projects. These interactions ensure that the center remains attuned to community needs and concerns while fostering public trust.

Partnerships and Collaborative Efforts

Collaboration is key to the center’s success. By partnering with academic institutions, research organizations, and other utilities, Dos Rios stays at the forefront of wastewater management technology. Notable partnerships include:

Texas A&M University

Collaboration with Texas A&M University has led to joint research projects focusing on improving treatment processes and developing sustainable waste management practices. This partnership also includes internships and work-study programs, providing practical experience and training for future water sector professionals.

Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Engagement with environmental NGOs ensures that Dos Rios’ operations align with broader conservation goals. These partnerships have led to initiatives aimed at restoring local ecosystems, enhancing biodiversity, and promoting eco-friendly practices within the community.


The Dos Rios Water Recycling Center stands as a testament to the potential of innovative, sustainable, and community-focused approaches in wastewater management. Serving millions of residents, treating vast volumes of wastewater, and leading the way with ground-breaking projects and forward-thinking strategies, the center exemplifies excellence in addressing modern water challenges.

Through continued investment in technology, dedication to sustainability, and unwavering community engagement, Dos Rios not only protects local water resources but also paves the way for a resilient and sustainable future. As we confront global water issues, the lessons and successes of the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center offer a valuable blueprint for communities worldwide.