Momentum for Potable Reuse on the South Coast

Heal the Ocean’s campaign for potable reuse (advanced water recycling) on the Santa Barbara County South Coast and beyond continues to gain momentum. We are pushing for potable reuse, which utilizes advanced treatment technologies to produce a safe source of purified water, as a locally controlled and drought proof water supply for the entire region.


Educating the Community on Potable Reuse

In July, we released an extensively researched policy publication, “Potable Reuse: A New Water Resource for California,” documenting how the use of advanced treated recycled water for groundwater recharge (specifically referred to as “indirect potable reuse”) is a drought resilient, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable water supply option for the California and the Santa Barbara region. This publication has garnered serious attention from across the state and was distributed at the 30th Annual WateReuse Symposium, which is the largest recycled water event in the country.

In a follow-up to this publication, we published an op-ed in Noozhawk in August summarizing the case for potable reuse and the need to investigate this supply for the future of water security in the City of Santa Barbara, either as a potential alternative or supplement to ocean desalination.

In October, James Hawkins, Heal the Ocean Policy Analyst, had the opportunity to present on potable reuse at the UCSB Central Coast Sustainability Summit. This presentation covered various forms of potable reuse, estimated costs, projected energy use, and several examples of successful potable reuse projects.


Giant Leap for Potable Reuse in Goleta

With support from Heal the Ocean, Goleta Water District took a giant leap forward for sustainable water supply management on the Santa Barbara County South Coast when on November 10 its Board of Directors approved an application for state funding in the investigation of its own potable reuse project. Heal the Ocean strongly supported this effort from the start and helped bring Goleta Water District, Goleta Sanitary District, and Goleta West Sanitary District to the table together to develop a plan to move forward.

Goleta Water District’s application to the state, which has already been approved, establishes their eligibility for up to $75k in funding for a potable reuse feasibility study. Their study will examine all potential options for a potable reuse program, as well as investigate the feasibility of achieving zero liquid discharge, in which all treated wastewater would be beneficially used as opposed to discharged to the ocean.

We are thrilled that Goleta Water District is taking this significant step in examining the expansion of its water supply portfolio into potable reuse. The successful completion of this feasibility study will put Goleta in a position to apply for up to million in recycled water grant funds from the state.


Santa Barbara Moves Ahead with Potable Reuse Study

Throughout the last several months, Heal the Ocean has been providing extensive input on the City of Santa Barbara’s potable reuse work plan, which is aimed at determining the technical feasibility and maximum potential for potable reuse in the City. The City is undertaking this potable reuse study, and a connected study of subsurface desalination intake technologies, at its own behest and in response to requirements for its desalination permit from the Regional Water Board. A robust public process and expert review panel has been established through the National Water Research Institute to vet and give input to these studies.

We have been supportive of the City’s efforts to initiate these studies; however, we voiced serious concerns with the proposed draft work plans, which will guide all work conducted under these studies. The stringent requirements in the work plans would only guarantee examination of technical feasibility factors related to potable reuse, and would delay the full consideration of potable reuse feasibility to a later date. We offered strong objections to these requirements in comments and testimony through the NWRI process and for a September 22, 2015 hearing of the City Council.

While the final work plan does not establish a path for the full investigation of potable reuse — which would include social, environmental, and economic feasibility — our advocacy prompted staff and many members of Council to reaffirm their support for the thorough assessment of this water supply. Council will have the opportunity to make further progress on potable reuse once the current study completes examination of technical feasibility factors in the summer of 2016.

The next NWRI workshop for the City’s potable reuse and subsurface intake feasibility studies is scheduled for January 27 from 9:30am to 12:00pm.