Constructed Wetlands

Project Summary:

The population of the North Texas Region is expected to double by 2060. Population growth drives the need for a clean and reliable water supply. Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) (George W. Shannon Wetlands Project, in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Richland Creek WMA) and North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) (East Fork Water Reuse Project and the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, in partnership with the Rosewood Corporation) worked together with Alan Plummer Associates to create innovative, efficient, and sustainable approaches for the natural filtration of water through the development of constructed wetlands. 

Each wetland has the ability to divert 95 million gallons of treated wastewater flows per day from the Trinity River, coming downstream from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The water is pumped into the wetland to be naturally filtered through a series of sedimentation basins and wetland cells filled with beneficial aquatic plants—removing on average 95% of the sediment and 50% to 80% of nitrogen and phosphorus. Once the water makes its way through each wetland, it is pumped to a reservoir, treated to drinking water standards, then delivered to consumers for use (NTMWD to Lavon Lake and TRWD to Richland Chambers Reservoir). 

Project Impact:

Combined, the projects create over 4,000 acres of wetland and supply raw water for approximately 3.8 million people in North Texas. In addition, the wetlands provide a wide array of ancillary benefits which include: optimal habitat for wildlife—including hundreds of avian species, educational and research opportunities for the community and schools, and recreational opportunities—including bird watching, fishing, and hunting, that provide a
positive economic impact for the region. 

If location and planning permits, a constructed wetland is a cost-effective alternative to building a new reservoir and pushes back the need to construct additional water supply projects. The cost of raw water from new reservoirs being planned ranges from $0.41 to $1.12 per cubic meter ($1.55 to $4.24/1000 gallons).* In contrast, the cost of raw water from the wetland systems has ranged from $0.17 to $0.30 per cubic meter ($0.63 to $1.15/1000 gal).* Additionally, constructed wetlands occupy a fraction of the footprint and are permitted and constructed in a shorter timeframe than reservoirs. 

Partners involved include:

TPWD’s Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area, Rosewood Corporation, John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, Alan Plummer Associates, Freese & Nichols, Inc., and Falcon Steel. The John Bunker Sands Wetland Center partners with several school districts, as well with wildlife and conservation organizations, including local Master Naturalist groups and the Audubon Society. Research institutions have included Baylor University and the University of Texas at Tyler.

Tarrant Regional Water District’s George W. Shannon Wetlands Project

TRWD is a political subdivision of the State of Texas created in 1924 to provide raw water to its customers located within Tarrant County and adjacent counties. As one of the largest water suppliers in the state, the TRWD provides raw water from surface water sources to 2.1 million people in its service area that currently spans across eleven counties in North Central Texas. The George W. Shannon Wetlands Project is located on Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area. This property was donated to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1987 as mitigation for the construction of Richland Chambers Reservoir. The wetlands were constructed on TPWD lands through a partnership with TRWD. The purpose of the project is both water supply and wildlife habitat.

The George W. Shannon Wetlands serves as an important component in the TRWD’s water supply system by diverting up to 90 million gallons of water a day. Water diverted from the Trinity River is naturally treated by the wetland system before being delivered to Richland Chambers Reservoir. Treatment occurs as the water travels through 20 vegetated wetland cells that cover 2,022 wetted acres. The wetland system effectively removes as much as 95 percent of the sediment load and 50 to 60 percent of the phosphorus and nitrogen loads from the river.

TRWD also plans to construct a future sister-project near the Cedar Creek Reservoir.

Learn more on TRWD’s website and check out their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube Channel

TPWD’s Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area hosts thousands of visitors each year that partake in hunting, fishing, birdwatching, and other recreational activities. The area includes vast bottomland hardwood forests that serve as nesting and brood rearing habitat for many species of neotropical birds. Numerous marshes and sloughs provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds, as well as diverse aquatic life.

Learn more on Richland Creek WMA’s website and check out their Facebook

North Texas Municipal Water District’s East Fork Water Reuse Project and the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center

NTMWD was created in 1951 to provide high quality and dependable water, wastewater, and solid waste services to approximately 1.7 million people located across ten counties in the North Texas area. A significant portion of its raw water is provided by the East Fork Water Reuse Project. The wetland, which is essentially a large-scale water recycling project, diverts up to 90 million gallons per day of effluent return flows from the East Fork Trinity River and cleans the water using natural treatment processes in a 24-cell, 2,000-acre constructed wetland. The wetland removes nitrogen, phosphorus, suspended solids, and other pollutants from the water. The wetland-treated water is then pumped to Lavon Lake to be stored and blended with other water supplies before it is pumped to the Wylie Water Treatment Plant for treatment as drinking water.

Learn more about NTMWD on their website and check out their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube Channel

Situated on the East Fork Water Supply wetland you can find John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, which was developed through a partnership between NTMWD and the Rosewood Corporation. This non-profit facility provides opportunities for research, education, wildlife observation, and community gatherings within a modern, environmentally conscious facility and grounds.

The mission of the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center is to educate the public and provide research opportunities in the areas of water quality and supply, wildlife management, and wetland systems. To fulfill this mission, the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center employs two full-time staff, four part-time staff, and utilizes over 25 volunteers. The Wetland Center’s programs touch approximately 3,000 students in grades K through 12 each year as they participate in various educational activities at the wetland. The Wetland Center also serves as a hub for community and interest group gatherings, including activities such as bird walk and talks, photography lessons, and highway clean-up, in addition to hosting family-friendly community days.

Learn more about the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center on their website and check out their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Texan by Nature’s Vision:

Texan by Nature is working with Tarrant Regional Water District and North Texas Municipal Water District to spread educational awareness of the multitude of benefits that constructed wetlands provide. We would like to see these projects be a worldwide case study and example of sustainable options that other water providers have when seeking conservation-minded solutions to providing a clean and reliable water supply to their communities. 

Project Needs:

  • Awareness: Increased educational awareness and visits to each site for tours and educational programming. 
  • Partners: Distance learning program that is accessible to all teachers in NTMWD and TRWD service areas.
  • Research: Continued scientific research and education at each site.

Contact Taylor Keys at or at 512-284-7482 if you would like to learn more, would like to get involved, or have resources for the project.

* Timothy Noack, Loretta Mokry, Chris Zachry, and Ted Kilpatrick. “Constructed Wetlands Play Integral Role in Providing Water Supply through Indirect Potable Reuse in North Texas.”


Title Link
Constructed Wetlands Project Overview 2018 Download
TRWD George W. Shannon Wetlands Overview Download

Tangible Results


3.8 Million+

  • People in North Texas are provided with reliable, high-quality raw water supply through indirect potable reuse. 
  • Texan by Nature is working with the constructed wetlands projects to further identify and report on how many people are directly and indirectly impacted by this project.


Coming Soon!

  • Texan by Nature is working with the constructed wetlands projects to further identify and report on the economic cost savings from this project, in addition to the economic impact of hunting and recreation. 
  • The raw water produced from the NTMWD and TRWD constructed wetland systems, as well as that projected from the future TRWD wetland system, is very cost effective in comparison to many of the other water supply strategies recommended. For example, several new reservoirs are in the planning and permitting phase. The cost of raw water from new reservoirs being considered ranges from $0.41 to $1.12/m3 ($1.55 to $4.24/1000 gallons). In contrast, the cost of raw water from the wetland systems has ranged from $0.17 to $0.30/m3($0.63 to $1.15/1000 gal).  

Natural Resources

4,000+ acres of wetland

  • The constructed wetlands provide critical habitat for wildlife, including migratory waterfowl. Over 200 avian species have been documented. 
  • New reservoirs will impact several thousands of acres of land and can take decades to plan, permit, design, construct, and commission. The reuse wetlands can be placed into operation within 5 to 6 years; will occupy a fraction of the footprint of a reservoir; and can produce an annual water yield comparable to a new reservoir. 

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