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Recycled Water Restart Restores Santa Barbara City College Grass to Green

Campus landscaping revives after city recycled water plant restarts operations following major upgrade

The Santa Barbara City College West Campus lawn goes green again after city’s recycled water plant starts operating. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara City College West Campus lawn goes green again after city’s recycled water plant starts operating.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The grass is greener on the Santa Barbara City College lawns thanks to its operating sprinkler irrigation system nourished by recycled water.

The city El Estero Water Treatment Plant was offline for 18 months during a $30-million upgrade and after it reopened last year, the campus started watering its grass, planters and trees again.

When the recycled water plant was offline, the city supplemented the recycled water system with potable water and asked customers to cut back their use voluntarily, city water system manager Catherine Taylor said.

The college reduced their consumption of water while the plant was down by close to 60 percent of normal consumption when the plant was in operation, said SBCC Grounds Maintenance Supervisor Mark Broomfield.

“It only took about two weeks once we started watering again to see green returning,” he said. “A little over a year later and its pretty close to perfect again. The new plant is producing water of tremendous quality. ”

The irrigation system was damaged during construction projects and recycled water had to be shut off to areas until repairs were made. Water treatment plant repairs focused on tertiary filtration treatment, a secondary wastewater system which removes ultrafiltration and disinfection. 

El Estero Water Treatment Plant produces more than 1 million gallons a day with a maximum production of 2.5 million gallons per day, Taylor said.

In addition to SBCC, recycled water customers include schools, parks, golf courses, highway landscape, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and several housing complexes throughout the city.

“Since completion of the recent facility upgrades, the recycled plant production is meeting current customer needs,” Taylor said.

Amid California’s fifth consecutive year of severe drought, recycled water is a critical water supply, as it frees up potable water for essential uses such as drinking and bathing, Taylor said.

Locally sourced from Santa Barbara residential and commercial sewer customers, recycled water can be used for non-potable functions like irrigation, public toilet flushing and industrial cleaning, according to Taylor.   

“Recycled water provides a reliable source of water to maintain public spaces, landscape investments, and keeping public restrooms open, even during times of extreme drought,” she said.  

The 2 percent of landscaping SBCC does not irrigate with recycled water includes the gourmet dining room vegetable production area and parts of the horticulture garden.

Broomfield said recycled water continues to be utilized across campus and they plan to use the recycled water system at the three-story West Campus Classroom Building once construction is completed, he said. 

“The college and the city are lucky to have this amazing resource,” Broomfield said. “As one of the first cities in the nation to install a recycled water processing facility, the city has maintained this commitment to sustainability by upgrading the treatment plant to a world class facility.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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