Water & Drought

Pismo Beach pushing regional recycled water project

Pismo Beach has taken its next steps toward implementing a recycled water project, which could someday give the Five Cities the means to recharge the Santa Maria groundwater basin using treated sewage.

The City Council unanimously approved an agreement Tuesday with SWCA Environmental Consultants to prepare environmental documents for the city’s recently renamed Pismo Beach Regional Groundwater Sustainability Program.

The environmental and permitting process is expected to take 18 months to two years; but first, Pismo Beach is looking to secure commitments from neighboring agencies to work in tandem in the preliminary planning stages of the project. The cities of Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach and the Oceano Community Services District will eventually have to decide whether to share costs and governance of the program, though that discussion will likely not take place until after the environmental reports are compiled.

SWCA, which is based out of San Luis Obispo, was chosen out of five proposals for environmental contracts submitted to the city between July 28 and Aug. 20, according to a staff report. The contract is valued at $163,392.

The city has also put out requests for proposals for the project’s engineering contract. The deadline for proposals is Oct. 30.

309.6 million gallonsHow much water the Pismo Beach Regional Groundwater Sustainability Program could recycle annually.

In April 2015, the Pismo Beach City Council approved its Recycled Water Facilities Planning Study, which examined how the Five Cities could preserve and increase its water supply.

The study concluded the best option would be to update the city’s sewage treatment plant to include “full advanced treatment with direct groundwater injection.” The city’s plant treats approximately 1.1 million gallons of sewage per day to a secondary level and discharges that treated effluent into the ocean.

The new procedure would add a higher tertiary level of filtration and disinfecting so the effluent could be injected into the Santa Maria groundwater basin, where much of the South County draws a portion of its drinking water. The water also could be discharged back into the basin near the coast to provide a barrier against seawater intrusion.

Once complete, the project could recycle up to 950 acre-feet of water — or 309.6 million gallons — per year.

Since April, the city has reached out to other regional agencies to start working together on the $29.7 million project, now called the Pismo Beach Regional Groundwater Sustainability Program to better reflect the regional scope of the project.

The Oceano CSD board of directors discussed a partnership in May and voted 4-1 in favor of working collaboratively with Pismo Beach on preliminary planning.

Director Matthew Guerrero dissented because of concerns that the project would impact another recycled water project proposed by the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District. (The sanitation district is conducting a feasibility study for building a satellite plant to treat wastewater for groundwater recharge or irrigation, similar to the Pismo Beach recycling project, though both are in the early planning stages.)

The Arroyo Grande City Council discussed the topic in June and unanimously voted in favor of working with Pismo Beach.

Most recently, the Grover Beach City Council heard a presentation by Pismo Beach public works director Ben Fine on Oct. 19, and directed staff to put the issue of a partnership on the agenda for its Nov. 16 meeting.