Corrections: Phase 2 of the Northeast Water Purification Plant expansion will allow the plant to treat an additional 240 million gallons per day, not 320 million. Surface water must make up 80% of water use by 2035.

Officials with the city of Houston and four regional water authorities gathered Dec. 11 to cut the ribbon on a roughly $1.8 billion expansion project at the city's Northeast Water Purification Plant.

The milestone comes eight years after the city joined forces with four regional water authorities to invest in the project, which Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called "the largest public works water construction project in the nation, and probably even in the world."

The details

Once the expansion is completed in 2025, the plant—located at 12550 Water Works Way, Humble—will treat 400 million gallons of water per day before sending it on to water users, including four regional water authorities: the North Harris County Regional Water Authority, the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority, the West Harris County Regional Water Authority and the North Fort Bend Regional Water Authority.

The plant has been treating roughly 80 million gallons of water per day. Once Phase 1 is completed, the plant will be able to treat an additional 80 million gallons of water per day. Phase 2, slated for completion in 2025, will allow another 240 million gallons per day to be treated.

The four authorities and the city of Houston have partnered on the project's funding with additional help from the Texas Water Development Board.

The backstory

The project is intended to provide a sustainable source of drinking water to the region for future generations, Turner said at the Dec. 11 ribbon-cutting.

It also is tied to state mandates for water providers to transfer a portion of their water supply sources from groundwater to surface water. The requirements, enforced by a state-created entity called the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District, were put in place to reduce subsidence in the region, the phenomenon of land sinking as ground water is pumped out from underground aquifers.
  • Currently, surface water makes up around 30% of total water use.
  • By 2025, surface water must make up 60% of total water use.
  • By 2035, surface water must make up 80% of total water use.
How it works

The soon-to-be-expanded water plant is part of a broader system that takes rainfall from East Texas and brings it to water users in the city of Houston, and Harris and Fort Bend counties.

When rain falls and runs off into the Trinity River, it is carried to the Houston area by a 26-mile network of pipes and canals called the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project, which opened in 2021. Water ends up in Lake Houston at a new intake pump station and carried by pipeline to the water purification plant.

From there, ongoing pipeline projects by the regional water authorities help bring that water to pump stations and utility districts in parts of Harris County, Fort Bend County and the city of Houston.

What they're saying

"This plant, and what it will provide for years to come, is a gift to future generations," Turner said. "Our drinking water needs will be met in a sustainable manner for generations to come."

What's next

In early 2024, crews will work on the installation of a second tunnel under the West Lake Houston Parkway and corridor pipeline road restoration. The overall project will be completed in 2025.