As technology keeps advancing more and more toward science fiction, the City of Fort Worth is harkening back to traditional solutions in a partnership with the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD). Their goal is to improve the health and appearance of the Trinity River by using a massive wheel to filter out trash.
Baltimore, Maryland and Panama City, Panama, have both found success with waterwheels in their cities, inspiring Fort Worth to implement one of their own. The structures can remove floating trash and litter such as plastic bags and bottles; as well as natural debris like leaves and branches while still being safe for the environment.
“While there are many benefits to a waterwheel, two key factors that led to advancing this initiative are: demonstrated success/proof of concept and the opportunity to highlight a commitment to a safe, clean and green community,” Cody Whittenburg, Fort Worth Environmental Services Interim Director, told Government Market News.
According to officials, the main goal of the project is removing pollutants from the surface of the river, which will improve water quality and create a safer environment for plants and animals. Heavy rainfall cause more debris to be swept into the river through storm sewer systems, making the wheel even more useful.
The waterwheel will be located on the south bank of the Clear Fork Trinity River, measuring approximately 52 feet long by 24 feet wide, with a 14-foot diameter wheel. The archaic looking structure will be powered by both the river’s current and solar panels, enabling it to collect and remove up to 50,000 pounds of solid waste per day — equal to about two-and-a-half garbage trucks.
The collection process begins with containment booms guiding floating trash toward a conveyor belt. The waterwheel’s motor then lifts the debris onto the conveyor, depositing it into a secure bin. This enclosed system prevents windblown trash from scattering and provides easy access for removal.
Additionally, the use of solar power and reusable bin aligns with Fort Worth’s commitment to sustainable practices, making the project environmentally responsible.
“Some key accomplishments staff hope to accomplish include creating an educational opportunity around environmental stewardship and the interconnectivity of watersheds,” Whittenburg said.
The project will help with more than just reducing trash, according to officials. In addition to removing litter, the initiative aims to improve the community’s appearance and quality of life. A clean and visually appealing river contributes to a more vibrant and enjoyable environment for all residents.
Baltimore installed the first waterwheel in 2014. The city has since added three more because of its stellar performance. The most recent waterwheel was installed in Panama City in 2022.
With construction expected to finish by summer 2024, the Fort Worth waterwheel will join the ranks as the sixth location worldwide and the first in the state. It is projected to last for at least 20 years.
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Photo courtesy of the City of Fort Worth