John DeFillipo, John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
John DeFillipo: Hi, I'm John DeFillipo, executive director of the John Bucker Sands Wetland Center, located just 25 miles southeast of downtown Dallas. When visitors come to explore this unique habitat, they walk out on the boardwalk and their eyes open up. They look around and have a direct connection with the environment, and then they slow down and begin to learn how water is the driving force of all nature.
The current population of the state of Texas is around 28 million people, projected in the next 50 years to almost double. The East Fork Wetland Project has supplied water for over a decade to the growing population of north Texas. Without this wetland, during the middle 2000s, we would've been at a great need for water. The East Fork Wetland Project prevented us having to go into stage four water restrictions and helped us meet that growing demand by planning for supplemental supplies for the future.
Every day, about 40 to 50 million gallons of treated effluent flow into the East Fork Wetland. Over 20 different species of native plants, cattail and bulrush, naturally filter out nitrate, phosphate and ammonia. After seven to ten days of the water in our wetland, that naturally filtered water flows underground through a 43 mile pipeline, ending back at the reservoir of origin, Lavon Lake.
Historically, the East Fork Water Reuse Project was a cattle pasture. Can you imagine converting a cattle pasture into a wetland? The original designers of this wetland did just that. What they didn't expect was the wildlife habitat they created as well. The wildlife started moving in on their own, either slithering across the levee, flowing in through the creeks, or landing on their own in the wetland.
Many people are surprised to find out that wetlands occur throughout all eco-regions of our state. Our coastal wetlands provide important habitat for wildlife, as species from the ocean come in to lay their eggs in one of a kind estuaries that has a mixture of freshwater and saltwater. The nutrients, the protection, and that habitat is just right for those species to flourish throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and further into the Atlantic Ocean.
When students and visitors come to the wetland center, they don't walk in the front door and say, teach me everything about water conservation. Even though that is our mission, they come to see the wildlife, especially the American bald eagles that have called our wetland home since 2009. They've raised over 12 eaglets on the property in that time period. Think about that for a moment. American bald eagles, living and breeding just 25 miles southeast of Dallas. It's amazing, and a perfect testament of what we can do when we partner together for water for all of us.