Fort Worth City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with the Tarrant Regional Water District to install a waterwheel on the Trinity River at its Nov. 14 meeting.

The details

According to a city news release, the waterwheel collects and removes trash and debris from the river’s surface using hydropower or solar power, containment booms and a conveyor belt system.

Waterwheels have been used to much success in other parts of the world, including Baltimore Harbor in Baltimore and Panama City, Panama, the news release states. Fort Worth’s waterwheel will be installed in the Clear Fork section of the Trinity River, near Panther Island Pavilion.

Due to the fact that the river surface rises and falls during and after rainfall events, the waterwheel is engineered to keep collecting trash as the water level rises and falls, according to city documents. It has also been engineered to:
  • Capture up to 50,000 pounds daily of litter and debris, known as floatables.
  • Contain floatables at a single point to prevent debris from continuing downstream.
  • Improve the aesthetics and usability of waterways.
  • Improve aquatic ecosystems for fish and wildlife.
Diving in deeper

Besides being a tool to catch trash, Fort Worth officials are hoping that the waterwheel also serves as a way to educate the public about being litter aware. To highlight the need for a waterwheel on the Trinity River, city documents state that approximately 28,500 pounds of litter and debris were collected after a heavy rainfall event Aug. 21, 2022. This was collected along the banks of the Trinity River over a four-day period—mostly by hand—using staff and volunteers.

That same year, TRWD’s two Trash Bash volunteer litter cleanup events collected approximately 13,500 pounds of litter and debris from the Trinity River’s banks.

According to the news release, funding for the project has been secured through the following channels:
  • Approximately $600,000 in private donations
  • The city of Fort Worth’s budget includes $350,000 to cover a portion of the estimated capital costs, and $350,000 is included in the TRWD budget.
  • The city and TRWD have agreed to share estimated annual maintenance expenses with a 50/50 split.
Fort Worth’s waterwheel will be the sixth one in the world and the first one in Texas, the news release states. Installation of the waterwheel should be completed by summer 2024. Once installed, it is estimated to provide more than 20 years of service with normal preventative maintenance, according to the news release.