HTO Receives $330,000 State Grant for Sewer Outfall Study

 UCSB researcher launches computerized drifter off Montecito outfall, 2007

UCSB researcher launches computerized drifter off Montecito outfall, 2007

In 2007 Heal the Ocean received a $333,000 Proposition 50 Clean Beaches Initiative grant for a revolutionary oceanographic and microbiological ocean outfall study that tracked the travel of wastewater once it is discharged into the ocean. Called the "Shallow Ocean Wastewater Outfall Source Tracking Project" (SOWOST) the project focused on the Montecito Sanitary District outfall, which discharges into 23 feet of water, 1,100 feet off Butterfly Beach in Montecito.

During the 3-year project, UCSB oceanographers Libe Washburn and Carter Ohlmann teamed up with microbiologist Dr. Trish Holden and her laboratory staff. During the first year of the project scientists went to the outfall every week and deploy GPS drifters to computer-map where the sewage plume travels. Ocean-water samples were taken from the spots where the drifters drifted, and those samples went into Dr. Holden's lab at UCSB to for DNA and bacteria analysis. The study proved inconclusive as to the outfall impact on human health, but revealed interesting facts about travel time, near-shore currents and patterns of discharge.

See the Drifters!

 Composite picture of one year of weekly drifter travels

Composite picture of one year of weekly drifter travels